Exciting changes are ahead in optometry, and COVID-19 has sped up this process. Gone are the days where optometrists simply carried out sight tests day in, day out. Our job role has expanded to support our colleagues in the NHS and optometrists now have the opportunity to gain extra qualifications.
In Wales these include:
- The Welsh Eye Care Service (WECS) – this accreditation enables patients to access NHS funded emergency eye care within 24hours from an optometrist, who can then refer directly to eye casualty if required. In the same way as you would see a dentist if you had a problem with your teeth, you should now see a WECS accredited optometrist if you have ANY problems with your eyes, rather than your GP/pharmacist.
- The Low Vision Service – this accreditation enables patients who are struggling with their vision despite having up to date spectacles, to access an NHS funded low vision assessment to try out magnifiers, lamps and other aids. If helpful, these are then provided on loan, for free, for as long as you need them.
- Independent Prescribing – this qualification means that your optometrist can diagnose and manage a wider range of eye conditions in the community. They have access to more specialised medication to treat certain eye conditions rather than having to refer you to the hospital setting.
In addition to the WECS and low vision qualifications I am currently just over halfway through the independent prescribing qualification and have been spending time working in eye casualty as part of it. Being the first Optometrist in the Swansea Bay Health Board to do this placement is exciting and it has been very rewarding being at the forefront of emergency eye care, and seeing how COVID-19 has changed some things for the better!