Specsavers held its annual Professional Advancement Conference (PAC) in Birmingham last weekend.

Professor Harry Weisinger, Specsavers global director of professional services, told 2,000 attendees to expect a transformation of their roles as the gap closes between optometry and medicine.

Enhanced optical services were a key focus of the conference, with other sessions on children’s eye care, contact lenses, regulatory standards, dispensing and audiology.

Thirteen halls in the Birmingham ICC were in used in what was billed as Europe’s largest optical clinical CET conference.

Prof Weisinger said: ‘We are embarking on a transformation of our profession that has until this point steadily evolved from our origins as spectacle makers to where we are today. Transformation: that’s a big call. But rest assured this is where we’re going.’

He highlighted the latest developments in disruptive technology, new treatments and the crisis in NHS funding.

‘There is a gap between optometry and medicine that is quite profound. Speaking to many eye surgeons and optometrists there may be up to 80% of patients in a hospital outpatient clinic who could be discharged to the community if there was trust in community eye services. So medicine really wants us to prove ourselves. The solution is to close the gap so we can work better with medicine.

‘The critical path is that we must educate ourselves. If we don’t get to that standard, nothing else can happen. At Specsavers we are on that journey. We are talking to universities and hospitals and other education providers to increase the range of options available to you. We are leading the way in educating consumers who haven’t historically thought about optometrists as eye health professionals. We need to educate key stakeholders, as initiatives like the RNIB partnership do. We need to educate GPs locally, regionally and nationally. Most important of all, with all this education, we must use it,’ added Prof Weisinger.