Optometrists call for new Contract for Public eye-care

Optometrists seek to reduce waiting times for eye-care

Optometrists have called for a new contract with the HSE to provide enhanced public eye-care and cut excessive waiting times for patients.

The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) called for an increase in community-based eye-care in line other countries across Europe – and said that its existing contract for public eye-care is not fit for purpose.

AOI President John Weldon said AOI’s contract with the HSE dates back to 1999 and the approach to care, scope of practise, training and equipment have changed radically over more than twenty years. He said there is significant untapped potential among Optometrists to reduce the capacity shortfall and an up to date contract would provide opportunities to deliver better outcomes for patients.

“National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) Waiting List figures to the end of April 2021 show more than 40,000 on the outpatient eye-care waiting list and 7,300 on the inpatient waiting list.

“Optometrists are today calling on the Department of Health and HSE and to engage with the profession and develop a new contract which takes advantage of opportunities for more responsive patient care. There is an ongoing reluctance among health service decision makers to better utilise Optometrists. A greater focus needs to be on what will deliver for patients.

“There are 300 Optometry practices and 700 practitioners in every locality of the country and they have capacity to provide much needed care. Meanwhile, our citizens can wait many years to be seen for Cataract.

“There have been major changes in Optometry over the past 20 years. The techniques have changed, equipment and technology have transformed. An eye examination is very different from what it once was. Treatments and patient pathways have evolved.

“A fit for purpose contract would provide an opportunity to untap capacity and address the following issues:

• Use of Sligo model to alleviate Cataract treatment delays
• National Roll out of a Children’s Eye-care Programme
• Increased right to prescribe certain eye medications.
• Up to date agreements on the Medical card scheme.”

In conclusion Mr Weldon said: “An analysis carried out by AOI found that these changes can be delivered with minimal cost, or even with overall cost savings.”

AOI has raised these issues directly with the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and with HSE CEO Paul Reid and is awaiting any progress.

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