Help is at hand

The AOP’s clinical adviser Farah Topia and professional adviser Henry Leonard share insight on common questions from members and the service they provide

Henry Leonard and Farah Topia

All professionals need guidance at some point in their careers. While the knowledge and experience of colleagues is invaluable, occasionally there is a thorny issue that has the rest of the practice staff stumped, or perhaps results in division within the staff room about the right approach.

This is where the AOP’s clinical adviser, Farah Topia and professional adviser, Henry Leonard, can provide help.

Ms Topia and Mr Leonard receive a wide range of clinical and regulatory enquiries from AOP members at different stages of their careers.

“As practising optometrists ourselves, we are very aware that the advice we give needs to offer members the protection they need, without being overly burdensome,” Mr Leonard shared.

Common areas they receive enquiries about include vision standards for drivers, the sale and supply of optical appliances, appropriate supervision and data protection, as well as clinical matters such as the management of ocular pathology and making appropriate referrals.

We are very aware that the advice we give needs to offer members the protection they need

Henry Leonard, AOP professional adviser

For members who wish to establish their own business, Mr Leonard and Ms Topia can offer advice on setting up a practice and applying for a General Ophthalmic Services contract.

Mr Leonard highlighted that from the queries he receives, it is clear that many AOP members are increasingly becoming involved in extended roles in both primary and secondary settings.

“Most practitioners find this a welcome challenge, which adds variety to their normal working day, and it’s also great for raising the profile of optometry in the wider healthcare community,” he shared.

As well as fielding queries from members of the public, Mr Leonard and Ms Topia offer clinical advice to the AOP’s legal team as they defend members undergoing NHS, employment and General Optical Council investigations. They also help to promote AOP media campaigns, including the recent Don’t Swerve a Sight Test and A B See campaigns.

Making the decision as to whether or not to refer a patient to the DVLA is a particularly tricky one

Farah Topia, AOP clinical adviser

When it comes to issues that are challenging to navigate, Ms Topia said that a number of calls are from members who have seen a patient below the visual standard for driving.

“Making the decision as to whether or not to refer a patient to the DVLA is a particularly tricky one,” she highlighted. “In my view, this is because as optometrists, we take patient confidentiality very seriously and the idea of breaching this is a scary one. We do also however, also recognise our duty of care to the public and balancing these duties can be difficult,” Ms Topia elaborated.

Continuing to learn and regularly speaking with peers is key to ensuring that a practitioner’s clinical practice is the best it can be, Ms Topia observed.

She highlighted that peer review can help to spark discussions that prompt a practitioner to reflect on their own practice.

Professional journals can help practitioners to keep abreast of changes as guidelines and best practice do change over time, she emphasised. 

Image credit: Will Amlot