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Vision and Eye Health 2019

The UK needs more optometrists

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Sarah Joyce

Superintendent Optometrist, ASDA Optician

The UK’s ageing population and the increase of conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, are putting strain on ophthalmology centres, which are severely understaffed.

Our ageing population and the increase in conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, the demand on ophthalmology in hospitals is becoming unmanageable. This is worse in certain areas where, due to certain demographic profiles, these conditions are even more prevalent, putting a strain on the local healthcare system and vision charities.

Optometrists are well placed to support the NHS

We are constantly hearing that there are not enough GPs and doctors to support the population’s need and, due to a lack of awareness, people will still often go to their GP or A&E for eye problems.

Local optometrists can manage many minor eye conditions and will be able to appropriately diagnose and manage more serious conditions, thus freeing up overstretched GPs and hospitals. Community services (in some parts of England), supplementary examination in Scotland and WECs in Wales recognise this, utilising optometrists’ skills to support the NHS, and saving vital NHS funds.

Opticians have access to patients who are coming for their eye tests who may not be visiting another health professional, so we are also ideally positioned to support the NHS Healthy Living initiatives like smoking advice/cessation, weight management etc. Supermarkets with both pharmacy and optical departments can work together to ensure patients are getting the care from the right professional referring between the two departments. But, in order to achieve this, we must recruit more eye care professionals.

In certain areas, there is a shortage of optometrists available, but the introduction of new university departments in these areas can support this workforce shortage. However, we need to also be encouraging students to consider entering into the profession to be able to support with this increase in demand.

Supporting and incentivising eye healthcare professionals

It is imperative that optometrists are continually learning and developing their skills throughout their careers, and therefore it is so important they have access to excellent continuing education & training.

At ASDA Opticians, our optometrists have annual CET events where they can gain important interactive education and peer review/discussion. They also have access to a CET app which has over 60 different courses available at any one time, so they can tailor their training to where they want to learn more or refresh their knowledge as well as access to optical journals with further CET materials.

ASDA opticians offer more accessible working hours, being open seven days a week, with extended hours. This allows our professionals to work more flexible hours to fit around their lives.

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