Monday, September 20, 2021.
Optometrists can unlock delays in public eye-care
The waiting list for eye-care remains unacceptably high at 49,000 – as Optometrists today said they can help to reduce delays in public eye-care.
National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures to August 2021 show that almost 41,200 people were on the outpatient eye-care waiting list. Almost 19,000 were waiting more than a year and 14,800 more than 18 months.
Furthermore, almost 7,800 people were awaiting inpatient eye procedures.
Optometry Ireland (formerly the Association of Optometrists Ireland, AOI) President John Weldon said there are deliverable opportunities to reform eye-care – to have patients seen quicker and at less cost.
“As the HSE has to manage healthcare budgets with the additional pressures COVID-19 has created, there is an opportunity to address this in eye-care through greater use of Optometrists.
“Citizens’ eye health is being compromised due to ongoing and unacceptable delays. Much of the resource needed to increase capacity in eye-care is already in place in Optometry. There are 300 practices and 700 practitioners all across the country who are highly trained, have state of the art equipment and have capacity to provide more services.
“We encourage that a greater role for Optometrists be given more discussion by the Department of Health and HSE. In Ireland Optometrists are not engaged with and utilised as much as in other EU countries.
“It is less costly for people to have their routine needs managed at their Optometrist than Hospital Ophthalmology service. The highly successful Sligo Cataract Scheme in the North West involving a greater role by Optometrists, has resulted in greatly reduced waiting times in that region.
“With approval from the HSE, Optometrists can also carry out greater prescribing to help with the care of chronic eye conditions in the community.
“The reform that we propose makes sense on every level. It can reduce waiting times, is cost-effective, makes services more accessible to patients and better uses a resource that is already in place,” Mr Weldon said.
Optometry Ireland welcomed ongoing developments in children’s eye-care for Optometrists to take charge of routine State eye examinations and care for children aged 8+. This has already commenced in a number of regions, and the profession called for a timeline and urgent roll out to all regions.
Mr. Weldon concluded by saying that approximately 40% of Optometrists have either trained as COVID-19 vaccinators, or were in the process of completing the certification.
“The door is open for Optometrists to play a greater role in public vaccination programmes. We envisage a future when people can receive vaccinations at their local certified Optometrist, similar to at a GP practice or Pharmacist.”
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731 / www.aoi.ie