Optometrists in Wales to certify low vision

Welsh optometrists with relevant qualifications will take on the role – which has traditionally been the domain of ophthalmologists

An elderly woman rests her hands in her lap with the palms facing each other

In a UK-first, optometrists with relevant qualifications working in Wales will be able to certify low vision.

The change will see optometrists who have both Eye Health Examinations Wales and Low Vision Service Wales accreditation complete certificates of vision impairment in patients with bilateral dry age-related macular degeneration.

Cardiff University research published in Eye in 2021 showed comparable agreement between ophthalmologists and low vision optometrists in making decisions about whether patients met eligibility criteria for low vision certification.

Rebecca Bartlett, national clinical lead for Wales General Ophthalmic Services, welcomed the launch.

“We expect an immediate increase in the number of people accessing certification and the important related support registration brings. We also expect to see a reduction in referrals to hospital eye services which will free up vital appointment slots for other people whose eye conditions need to be seen in this setting,” she said.

Director of Wales Council for the Blind, Owen Williams, shared that his organisation is keen for more services to be delivered in primary care optometry practices where it is safe to do so.

"We are delighted that Certificates of Vision Impairment can now be issued on the high street for patients with bi-lateral dry AMD. The certificate is a crucial document that opens the door to additional support, welfare benefits, financial concessions, and services in social care, the third sector, and elsewhere,” he said.

“By avoiding hospital delays, support of this kind can now be delivered more quickly, helping the patient maintain their independence and avoid the downward spiral into vulnerability, debt, and dependency,” Williams added.

Optometrists in Wales can find out more about participating in the service online.