An Irish optical association is calling for optometrists to have a greater role in the delivery of public eye care, stating that the current waiting list “crisis” could be solved “quickly and with cost savings” through this approach.
In Ireland, eye care currently has the largest waiting list of any medical treatment area, with more than 13,000 waiting for a procedure and 34,000 waiting for an appointment, the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) highlighted.
Reflecting on the issue, the AOI has called Ireland’s eye care model “outdated and unsustainable,” adding that it needs to change in order to better meet the needs of patients.
The association highlighted that in order to tackle the issue, routine public eye exams, treatment, review and monitoring could be provided in the community by optometrists, with specialist eye care provided by ophthalmologists and multi-disciplinary teams in clinics and hospitals. This approach, the AOI said, could save the state €30m each year.
CEO of AIO, Sean McCrave, stressed that optometrists are highly educated and regulated eye health professionals who have the equipment, training, skillset and willingness to provide community-based care for patients in the same manner as they already provide for private patients.
He added that the provision required for optometrists to reduce waiting lists could be rolled out immediately without any recruitment, capital or training costs. However, to enable this “optometrists’ public contracts would need to be revised, or, in the immediate term, payment could be made through the Special Delivery Unit,” he said.
AOI estimates that it is 50% cheaper for a patient to be seen by their optometrist compared to a tertiary care outpatient department.
Mr McCrave identified three areas where an expanded role for optometry could immediately reduce waiting times in Ireland. These were the paediatric list, the cataract list and the review of stable patients post-treatment, particularly those with glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
“It’s frustrating to continuously hear about the numbers on the eye care waiting list, and the patient risk this brings, while optometrists are in a position to immediately make significant inroads into solving the problem,” Mr McCrave concluded.