Report recognises role of optometry in supporting general practice

Optometry Scotland welcomed the report that explored alternative pathways in primary care, and recognised the potential for optometry to reduce pressure on general practice

Getty/Phil Fisk

Optometry Scotland has welcomed a new report that recognises the role that optometrists can play in reducing pressure on general practice.

Representatives from Optometry Scotland highlighted the support the profession provides – and the issues that need to be addressed to enable optometry to undertake further opportunities.

The Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee launched the consultation earlier this year to explore how patients access primary care in Scotland.

The consultation looked at the levels of awareness of primary care services beyond GPs, as well as the effectiveness of signposting between services and use of self-referrals.

It also considered the potential for greater use of alternative pathways, prevalence of self-referrals, and the extent to which patients are using information sources such as helplines and websites.

In the resulting report, Alternative pathways to primary care, the Committee said it was “encouraged” by evidence that optometrists have the potential to offer a wider range of services, including at-home services, and diagnostic and treatment services. The report highlighted Grampian as an example of best practice. 

The Committee has called on the Scottish Government to “assess whether optometry can be funded to fulfil this potential and how existing examples of best practice can be replicated more widely across Scotland.”

Chair of Optometry Scotland, Julie Mosgrove, provided input to the enquiry. She commented: “We were proud to be called upon to provide valuable insights into our sector, looking at what’s working well and where there is potential to further enhance community optometry.”

“We stressed that the greatest limitation to our sector’s ability to provide an increased role as an alternative pathway to healthcare is funding. With more, we could do even more to ease pressure on general practice,” Mosgrove said.

The representative organisation pointed out that there are approximately 400 independent prescribers, “and as more optometrists become qualified prescribers, the burden on GPs will be reduced further.”

Mosgrove highlighted the early identification of diabetes as a key area where optometrists can play a role in the preventative agenda, and also noted the benefits of addressing visual impairment on falls prevention, dementia and other mental illness.

The organisation noted that Scotland has a “good network” of optometry services, including rural areas. In its report, the Committee also acknowledged that the University of Highlands and Islands has joined Glasgow Caledonian University in offering an optometry course, with the aim of alleviating working capacity issues – particularly in remote locations.