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Eye injections top of agenda for ‘scope of practice’ advisory group

Optometrists performing intravitreal injections is one of several key issues to be addressed by a newly formed Optometry Australia (OA) advisory committee established to identify future opportunities for the profession.

The association has formed its first Evolving Scope of Practice Advisory Group, comprising 12 optometrists from across the country, with the goal of shaping the future of optometry and enhancing access to timely clinical care.

The committee, which will meet four times a year via teleconference, recently identified priority areas as part of its first meeting. These include facilitating a greater role for optometrists to administer intravitreal injections, as well as the more effective use of optometrists in public health eyecare pathways.

It follows the release of a controversial Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) ophthalmology review. Published in August, ophthalmologists opposed the proposed changes after it recommended optometrists and nurse practitioners could have a future role in administering eye injections.

“The Evolving Scope of Practice Advisory Group believes – as does Optometry Australia – that there are opportunities for optometrists, in collaboration with ophthalmologists, to play a role in providing this type of treatment,” OA general manager of policy Ms Skye Cappuccio said.

“Optometry Australia has been looking closely at this issue and sought to engage with RANZCO and the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists on how we may work collaboratively.”

Commenting on public health pathways, Cappuccio said there were various models internationally, as well as locally in Australia, demonstrating how optometry can be integrated with public health ophthalmology to support more timely access to care.

“Nationally public ophthalmology clinics have lengthy waiting lists and we believe there is scope to work together to establish models of care to maximise our highly skilled optometry workforce to help address some of this demand,” she said.

Queensland University of Technology School of Optometry and Vision Science head Professor Sharon Bentley has been appointed committee chair. According to OA, she will lead a group with strong cross representation.

The group has been convened following OA’s Optometry 2040 report, which asked members to help identify preferred and plausible futures for the profession. The role of the advisory group is to help OA “build the scaffolding to reach the Optometry 2040 goals”.

Cappuccio added: “We were delighted so many members demonstrated an interest in being part of it and by the calibre of their collective expertise – including academia, clinical research and service provision.

“The group has been convened in a way that ensures participants bring a diversity of experience and expertise to the discussion. This means we can capture a broad range of discussion and contexts from members who are at various stages of their careers including early career optometrists who are in the first 10 years of their profession.”

Future work of the advisory group could also include advocacy for regulatory or structural change and work to assist optometrists working in new areas.

Members of the Evolving Scope of Practice Advisory Group are all optometrists and OA members: Professor Sharon Bentley (chair), Associate Professor Nicola Anstice, Dr Lauren Ayton, Mr Mark De Paola, Ms Jane Duffy, Mr Garry Fitzpatrick, Mr Jason Holland, Dr Christopher Law, Dr Jack Phu, Dr Amanda Sobbizadeh, Ms Robyn Weinberg, Mr Michael Yapp.

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