GOC registrants back enhanced services

UK optometrists and dispensing opticians overwhelmingly back the chance to provide more eyecare services, a new GOC research report has found. The independent survey of over 4,000 UK optometrists and dispensing opticians found that 87 per cent supported plans to provide enhanced optical services in the community.

Alistair Bridge, GOC director of strategy, said: “Our research shows that the vast majority of optometrists and dispensing opticians are keen to get involved in delivering more healthcare services in new models of care, on top of their more traditional roles carrying out sight tests and fitting glasses and contact lenses. This has real potential to benefit patients and alleviate pressures on the NHS. It is great to see how registrants want to get more involved in this work. But our research has also shown there are barriers to overcome, including access to training, interest from some employers and making the work cost-effective. The optical sector will also have to work to change public perceptions about opticians. Our public research earlier this year showed that more people still think of themselves as a customer than as a patient and view opticians as retailers rather than healthcare providers.”

Enhanced optical services are increasingly being commissioned across the UK. They involve optometrists and dispensing opticians taking on additional work in areas such glaucoma management and low vision, usually with extra training and/or qualifications. It can also include opticians being a first port of call on the high street for patients with minor eye conditions such as redness or something in their eye.

The vast majority of registrants – some 87 per cent – expect to see their role change in the next five years, with new technology the most widely cited reason. But most registrants are embracing this change, with 62 per cent optimistic about the future of the professions. The figure in Scotland is particularly high (75 per cent).

64 per cent of optometrists have considered getting extra qualifications to take on more enhanced services work in the future. Those who are not considering getting extra qualifications cited barriers including it not being cost effective, it being difficult to access the right training and a lack of interest from their employer.