The next three weeks will see important elections to the Optical Registration Board in Ireland. Optician talks to board chair Peter McGrath about his vision for the future

Optician: How did you become interested in optical regulation?

Peter McGrath: I studied at the University of Manchester and qualified as an optometrist over 30 years ago, I then worked in various practices throughout the UK before heading to Australia and taking on an optometrist role in a busy suburban practice in Melbourne. I returned to Ireland in the early 1990s to get involved in the first Specsavers store in Ireland. I’m now a store partner in four busy optical and hearing practices in Dublin.

There have been massive changes in the optical profession since I graduated. As a practitioner and practice owner, the role of regulation in the new world became increasingly important to me and it is vital that we get it right to enable the optical sector to flourish and to grow to meet the needs of a changing population.

The opportunity for me personally arose with the new legislation to establish Coru and the new Optical Registration Board (ORB). I was appointed by the then Minister of Health to sit on the interim ORB in 2014, and I’ve been proud to serve on the board since then as its Chair. It has been challenging work, but I believe Coru and the ORB have provided a strong structure so that the optical professions can provide the best level of care for patients.

O: What progress has Coru made so far?

PM: Coru has a vital role to play in the support of the health professional registration boards. One of its key strengths is that it works across multiple professions which enables us to learn from one another and all move forward together. Coru has brought regulatory systems together in a proportionate and balanced way to work for both patients and all the respective professions.

I believe that the profession has been well served by Coru, and I greatly appreciate the work of Coru staff to support the ORB. Together, we have brought in a number of bye laws and a more up to date CPD system, and have sought to maintain the profession’s high standards while also reflecting the modern world we live in. Coru and the ORB’s role in the protection of patients is a key part of maintaining public confidence in our profession. It does this through the right touch approach, which doesn’t limit our scope of practice and allows us to continue to develop our skills as health care professionals.

O: What does the future hold for optical regulation and optical professions in Ireland?

PM: The sector has seen many changes in recent years due to technological advancements, and this will continue to be the case in the years ahead. We need to embrace these changes so that we can continue to provide the high-quality eye care that our patients deserve. Likewise, regulators will need to adapt to these changes to ensure that patient safety continues to be protected.

Coru and the ORB have played a key role by providing the regulatory underpinning for the expansion of scope of practice. More services can now be delivered in community practices and the optical professions are supported to expand their practice and safely deliver services.

O: How will Coru support practitioners adapt to these changes?

PM: As mentioned, we have made great strides in introducing a flexible and innovative system of continuing professional development for both optometrists and opticians. We are delighted to see the way that the professions have embraced these challenges to keep their skills up to date and to enhance their practice.

O: How best would you sum up the future for optical regulation in Ireland?

PM: Very exciting, we have a highly skilled profession responding to change at all levels. With committed leadership across the sector, I believe we will be well placed to meet these challenges head on for the benefit of everyone in Ireland.

Further information on the Optical Registration Board Elections can be found here. Ballots close on February 25 2019.