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The IT factor

IT connectivity, a new prescribing qualification and work on gender pay gaps highlighted at College of Optometrists roundtable

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Key members of the optical profession met at a College of Optometrists roundtable event to determine the best way to prepare for the changes set to hit optometrists and dispensing opticians in the coming years.

AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, board chair, Kevin Thompson, and legal team clinical adviser, Trevor Warburton, attended the September event to represent the Association.

The roundtable followed the release of The Foresight Project report and the College’s Optical Workforce Survey (OWS) results.

The meeting focused on the challenges of new technology and automation, myopia control developments, telehealth, deregulation, data sharing, community eye care demands, scope of practice extensions, changing demographics, an uneven geographical supply of professionals and a rise in part-time and locum working arrangements.

Six priority actions that optical bodies could undertake together were determined. Data sharing led the list, with the roundtable supporting the continued push for IT connectivity in England by the College and the Optical Confederation.

The OWS data indicating a gender pay gap was also highlighted, and the group suggested that this needed to be examined in more detail, work already being undertaken by the College and the AOP.

The roundtable participants also recommended that the sector should plan for changes in business models, prepare practitioners for the expected changes and examine the requirements for future regulation and governance.

An education review was also added to the action list, though the General Optical Council’s work in this area was noted.

In their discussions, the group raised the need for a prescribing qualification that is “less onerous” than independent prescribing, with a modified additional supply qualification suggested.

Ms Alderman told OT that: “The AOP welcomes the efforts of the College of Optometrists in bringing this event together and for producing a helpful report on the key focus points of the day. Some very pertinent discussions took place, such as the future impact of technology, review of educational training and the expanding optometry remit – all of which remain at the fore of the AOP’s work in 2017.

“Significant changes lie ahead within the profession and we are supportive of this pragmatic approach to work collaboratively on some of the major issues facing the sector,” she concluded.

To read the newly released report briefing, visit the College website.

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