Vision 2030

Foresight Project Report seeks to inform the debate about the future of the optical professions

Foresight report launch
The potential impact of technology on the UK optical sector has been considered in a wide-ranging report, published last month.

Commissioned by the Optical Confederation, of which the Association of Optometrists is a founding member, and the College of Optometrists, and principally financed by the Central Optical Fund, the Foresight Project Report sets out to better equip the optical sector with a longview on technology, ocular medical developments and shifts in the demographic landscape.

This knowledge, the report explains, intends to ‘inform debate’ as to how the sector can help shape and adapt to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The 183-page document, researched and produced by 2020Health, explores the optical landscape up to 2030, including the impact of the digital age, before going on to consider four key themes: technology and disruption, business, education and training, and regulation.

Speaking at the launch event (22 March), the chairman of the Foresight Project, Alan Tinger, explained: “Will we be able to say in the future that the largest opticians in the world has no practices? I don’t know, but what we can say for certain is that the practices of the future will be far different from today’s models. It naturally follows that the roles for practitioners in the future will not be the same as today.”

Reflecting on the importance of this principle on the debate in optical education, Mr Tinger noted: “We will seriously fail both patients and recruits into the sector if we are training for jobs that will simply not exist in the same way in the future.”

Considering changes in technology picked up in the report, Mr Tinger said: “One piece of kit alone being developed has the potential to revolutionise care. It is hand held binocular optical coherence tomography that in only a fraction of a second undertakes whole eye imaging, refraction and all aspects of an eye examination. Coupled with detailed analysis via artificial intelligence, it will lead to pin point diagnosis and without the need for an operator or the space required for current style refraction. This imaging has a much greater resolution than CT or MRI scanning.

“Technology of this type can either frighten the horses or inspire the practitioners of the future to upskill and become true doctors of the eye,” he concluded.

The full report is available on the AOP’s website.