Chris Bennett: Chance to bridge the gap
Author: Chris Bennett
Optometry has waited long and fruitlessly for government to provide a top-down invitation to work with ophthalmology.
Successful models of working have been demonstrated but postcode lottery thinking, changing priorities and lack of trust have often got in the way. How and where optometry should link with ophthalmology is a big question that spans the whole gamut of surgical eye care. At one end of the spectrum the two can interact outside of the NHS where private surgical vision correction offers options for well-heeled patients. At the other, high street optometry could help a hospital eye service that is struggling to cope with the sheer number of patients.
This week’s latest look at the refractive surgery market (page 14) shows the popularity of surgical intervention for vision correction and highlights some of the latest trends and developments. It’s clear there are plenty of people willing to pay while the number of options available to them has rocketed. Ophthalmology is undoubtedly good at measuring outcomes and that evidence should help the UK match the levels of refractive surgery found in other markets. It also presents an opportunity for high street optics.
Switching to a totally different field brings optometry into
the world of age-related vision needs where cataract, AMD, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy require detection, referral but – most importantly – management.
Ophthalmologists often complain of false positives from optometry and this week Optician (News, pages 4-5) heard how Specsavers is beginning to monitor and benchmark referrals to provide the data needed to improve referral rates and offer commissioners the reassurance they need to justify funding.
It will take time to build up the data and improve referral rates but where top-down thinking has failed the journey to a practical, bottom-up approach to get the two disciplines working together has begun.