ODOB tackling change

The Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board (ODOB) is reviewing the best ways to implement scope change for hospital-based optometrists where it is needed.

“Facilitating improved access to eye health services nationwide through better utilisation of the skills and experience of optometrists and dispensing opticians is a Board priority,” explained ODOB chair and Wellington-based optometrist Jayesh Chouhan. “The Board has therefore been gathering information to identify the most effective and safe way to implement change in this area.”

The Board has been working on scope changes both prior to and since the Royal College of Australian and New Zealand Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) NZ confirmed it was willing to support scope change for hospital-based optometrists in areas of high need in New Zealand. One of these options includes the possibility of expansion of the optometrist scope into injectables, amongst other tasks not currently within scope, said Chouhan. “It is the Board’s prerogative as the government-appointed regulator of optometrists to define the practice of the profession of optometry and to set the relevant qualifications and competence measures to practise optometry.”

But making changes to a scope of practice, particularly where it may include performing restricted tasks not currently within scope, is not something the Board enters into lightly or without consultation with affected parties, he said. “This process, necessarily, takes time, but we have already had indicative support from several stakeholders for scope expansion.”

As well as RANZCO NZ, representatives from the Ministry of Health (MoH) have also indicated their support for scope change after meeting with the ODOB and other industry groups in recent months.

“We support the principle of increasing the scope of our existing workforces to help address our health service and workforce needs,” said Martin Chadwick, MoH’s chief allied health professions officer. “This includes supporting optometrists to reduce the pressure on ophthalmologists. However, this must be done in the context of public safety, cost-effectiveness and other health priorities.”

Chouhan also commented that the Board’s priority was that of patient safety in regards to expansion of the scope of optometry. As well as liaising with stakeholders, such as the Government, the profession, RANZCO NZ and education providers, the Board is also communicating with other international regulatory authorities to identify the most effective and safe way to implement change in this area.

“The Board is willing and happy to share progress in this area and once we have confirmation of implementation, we will be more than happy to do so,” he said.

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