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AOP Council considers the future of regulation

Councillors discussed children’s eye care and shifting regulatory requirements at the AOP Council meeting in November

AOP gavel

The regulation of eye care and the Special School Eye Care Service were discussed at the latest AOP Council meeting (3 November, London).

AOP chief executive, Adam Sampson, reflected on his first months in the role after taking over from outgoing chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, in June.

Sampson shared that as well as becoming familiar with the technicalities of the eye care sector he is gaining an understanding of what members want from the AOP.

He outlined factors that are changing the professional landscape, from automated refraction to online sales and the drive to deliver more healthcare services in primary rather than secondary care.

He encouraged Councillors to share their experiences and views as part of the AOP strategy planning process.

AOP councillor Stewart Mitchell highlighted that there are a diverse range of views and interests within the AOP membership.

“The solutions that we come up with are going to have to be nuanced,” he shared.

AOP Councillor and Policy Committee chair, Kevin Wallace, provided an update on recent committee work, including an AOP response to the GOC consultation on new educational requirements for specialist registration in independent prescribing.

Wallace shared that the AOP were broadly supportive of the GOC’s proposals, which should help to widen access to independent prescribing and build prescribing skills in the optometric workforce.

Councillors were given the opportunity to discuss the Department of Health and Social Care’s review of healthcare regulation, the role of the GOC, and what functions should be regulated within the optical sector.

Several Councillors highlighted that the Opticians Act ensures the protection of public safety.

AOP Councillor Inderpal Ghuman raised the question of what would happen to paediatric and other non-standard patients if refraction was delegated and how undergraduate education would be changed to reflect this shift in regulation.

He also questioned whether the General Optical Council should be auditing online spectacle sales to check whether the prescription is being verified.

Councillors queried whether the development of artificial intelligence technology needed to be regulated and highlighted the development of autorefraction.

AOP Council chairman, Dr Julie-Anne Little, introduced a session on children’s eye care and the new Special Schools Eye Care Service.

“This is ground-breaking in terms of its design,” Little highlighted.

AOP Councillor, Angela Henderson, outlined to the Council her experience of the initiative so far.

Henderson highlighted that around half of children in special schools have significant ocular or visual problems.

However, research has revealed that only 10% access eye care in community practices and 43% have never accessed eye care services at all.

NHS England has committed to establishing the Special Schools Eye Care Service across England, with the aim to reach around 120,000 children at 1000 special schools.

Henderson shared that optometrists are paired with dispensing opticians to offer the service.

She highlighted the rewarding nature of the role.

“The satisfaction is amazing,” she added.

AOP policy adviser, Kathy Jones, outlined work on the AOP Policy manifesto, which covers topics including learning disabilities, vision standards for driving, and illegal or unsafe practice.