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Opchat Magazine Professional Matters PagesProfessional Matters News, October to December 2018

Optometry/Dispensing

For Ophthalmology Section Page Click Here.

Results of the College of Optometrists’ Council elections are announced
College of Optometrists launches new member app
GOC suspends London-based optometrist
CET consultation shows appetite for change, says GOC
AOP highlights the need for improved eye health services for patients with learning disabilities
GOC appoints new Chair and Deputy Chairs of CET Approvers
News from General Optical Council meeting 14 November 2018
ABDO responds to GOC plan for new 3-year CET cycle
FODO make visit to the University of the West of England (UWE)
Optometry Wales ‘Question Time’ Road Shows reach end of the road.
American Academy of Optometry announces Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO, as President
AOP responds to the GOC’S change of plan on the CET REVIEW
GOC appoints Dionne Spence as Director of Casework and Resolutions
GOC consults on new Education Standards and Learning Outcomes
GOC introduces Acceptance Criteria policy
College of Optometrists Life and Honorary Fellowships for outstanding contributions to the profession.
GOC erases Lincolnshire based optometrist.
American Academy of Optometry Announces Executive Director Departure
Second Warning from GOC: Over 8,000 registrants still to complete CET
AAO announces Dr. Alexandra Benavente-Perez as 2019 Career Development Awardee
Care Quality Commission fees consultation – have your say
Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) provides guidance on Wet AMD after drug decision.
Scotland - GOS Mandatory Training for Optometrists.
DOCET launches Young Eye CET programme
American Academy of Optometry Makes Donation in Honour of 2018 Brien Holden Humanitarian Award
2018 American Academy of Optometry Resident Travel Fellowship Recipients Announced
GOC appoints Dr Subo Shanmuganathan as Interim Director of Education
Optometry Scotland Roadshows announced
VAO publishes Annual Report ahead of World Sight Day on October 11th 2018
Changes to GOS 4 claims
Domiciliary visits – new online pre-notification system
Keeping abreast of assistive technologies for those with Sight Loss
The last 3 months news


Results of the College of Optometrists’ Council elections are announced

December 2018

The College of Optometrists has announced the names of its newest Council members. Shane Bhimani MCOptom and Nitika Sondhi MCOptom have been elected unopposed as College Council members for the London region, Kyla Black MCOptom will represent members in the East Midlands, Matt Roney MCOptom was elected unopposed to represent the North West region, Kathryn Trimmer MCOptom will represent Scotland, and Jodie Wearne will join as a new Council member for the South West.

The election process also saw five existing Council members re-elected:

• Peter Allen FCOptom for the Eastern region
• Andrew McGregor MCOptom to represent the North East
• Gillian Ruddock MCOptom re-elected unopposed for the North West
• Sheetal Patel MCOptom for the South East region
• Kiki Soteri MCOptom for the South West region.

New Council member for the North West, Matt Roney MCOptom, said: “I am honoured to have been elected as a College Council member. I’m looking forward to working with the College and other councillors over the coming years as I strive to make a positive difference within the optometric profession.”

Prof. Edward Mallen MCOptom, President of the College of Optometrists, said: “I would like to congratulate all the successful candidates and I look forward to welcoming them to the College Council. Our Council sets the strategic and professional direction of the College. As we begin next year to develop the College’s new Strategic Plan, it’s more important than ever to have connected and engaged members that will bring the views of our members from their region to us.”

“I would also like to warmly thank and recognise all the outgoing Council members for their enormous contribution and work namely Rasmeet Chadha MCOptom, Jane Macnaughton FCOptom, Sarah Farrant MCOptom, Priya Jayaprakash MCOptom, Paul Carroll MCOptom, and Craig McCoy MCOptom.

Membership of the College’s Council gives Members and Fellows the opportunity to represent colleagues, promote their profession and help shape the future of optometry.

The new Council members will begin their terms after the College of Optometrists’ AGM which is held on 25 February 2019 as part of the annual conference, Optometry Tomorrow.

Members can contact their regional Council member via the College website

College of Optometrists launches new member app

December 2018

College app

New College app gives instant access to key clinical guidance



The College of Optometrists has launched a new app to help support members in providing the best possible patient care. The app gives College members instant access to a range of its core clinical guidance as well as patient materials, all of which can be accessed offline.

The College app provides members with access to:

• Guidance for Professional Practice
• Clinical Management Guidelines (CMGs) - including new clinical images
• Optometrists’ Formulary
• Patient videos
• The Clinical Advisers.

Director of Member Services and Communications for the College of Optometrists, Catherine Bithell, says: “We are very excited to introduce the new member app which brings together some of our most popular resources, including the CMGs, the Guidance for Professional Practice, and the Optometrists’ Formulary.

This app will replace the existing member Guidance app, and provide us with the opportunity to give our members more content on the go, and will allow us to update the content regularly. We have also introduced photographic images for the first time, linked to the conditions described in the CMGs. One of the key app features, is the ability to access it anywhere, including when working offline, giving our members a quality user experience, wherever they are.”

College Council member for the West Midlands, Prab Boparai MCoptom, has had a preview of the app and said; “It's quick and easy. Even a non-IT person should be able to use it with ease. It's very convenient with advice literally at your fingertips, which is a godsend when you're in a busy clinic.”


The new College app will be available to College members only, from 28 November and can be downloaded on both the app store (iPhone) and the play store (Android) by searching ‘College of Optometrists’.

GOC suspends London-based optometrist

December 2018

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Kiran Jeerh, an optometrist based in London, from its register for a period of six months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found her fitness to practice impaired by reason of misconduct, relating to the submission to the GOC of a falsified application for registration.

In making the decision, the Committee, chaired by Ian Crookall, said: “The Registrant’s dishonesty was directed at her regulator, and it was done to enable her to commence employment as soon as possible. The nature of the Registrant’s misconduct and dishonesty undermined the vetting procedures of the GOC, procedures designed to protect the public and the public’s confidence in the profession; and the Registrant’s actions were a serious departure from the standards of conduct and behaviour expected of her.

“The Committee determined that a six months period of suspension would be the proportionate and appropriate sanction in this case.

“The Committee has decided to impose an immediate suspension order because it is in the public interest to do so in the circumstances of this case.”

Ms Jeerh has until 20 December 2018 to appeal her suspension, during which time she is suspended from the register under an immediate suspension order.

CET consultation shows appetite for change, says GOC

November 2018

GOC registrants have a strong appetite for increased control over their learning and development, according to the results of the regulator’s recent Fit for the Future Continuing Education and Training (CET) consultation.

The 994 responses showed positives attitudes towards the current CET scheme from registrants but many stakeholder organisations were concerned that some aspects of the scheme may not be suitable in the future.

They called for changes including a more central role for peer review, the correct balance between autonomous and mandatory learning to prevent deskilling, more support for registrants around reflective practice and a greater emphasis on professional development.

Attitudes to the experiences of peer review were particularly positive from stakeholder organisations, with almost all agreeing that peer review should play a more central role and should be extended to dispensing opticians.

GOC Interim Director of Education, Dr Subo Shanmuganathan, has welcomed findings of the consultation, commenting that: “The Fit for the Future consultation was triggered by the changing demands expected of optical services. Technology is affecting the ways in which diseases of the eye are diagnosed and monitored, and an ageing population is placing increased pressure on hospital eye services, GPs and A&E.

“In the future, GOC registrants will be expected to do more clinical work and it is essential that CET is developed to address these multiple challenges. I thank all our registrants and stakeholders who took part in the consultation and look forward to working with them next year to develop a scheme that is truly fit for the future.”

The Fit for the Future consultation ran from 18 July to 11 September.

The current three-year CET cycle will finish on 31 December 2018 and the next cycle will run from January 2019 to December 2021 under the same rules. The GOC will build on the above findings, to shape how the scheme should change from 2022 and will consult again with the professions on its proposals.

AOP highlights the need for improved eye health services for patients with learning disabilities

November 2018

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has issued a new position statement setting out how patients with learning disabilities are being failed by current NHS services and where improvements can be made, particularly in England.

In the statement, the Association highlights the high prevalence of visual problems among individuals with learning disabilities across the UK and outlines the barriers that many may face in accessing diagnosis and treatment. These include, the perception among carers and parents that patients with learning disabilities may not be able to have a sight test if they cannot read, ‘diagnostic overshadowing’ (where a problem is wrongly thought to be due to the person’s learning disability, rather than a separate condition), and the stress that visiting an unfamiliar setting can cause.

The paper sets out what the AOP believe the NHS in England should do to improve services for people with learning disabilities. This includes providing sight tests universally in all special schools and making NHS-funded sight tests available to everyone with a learning disability.

It also describes recent action and initiatives in the other UK nations, highlighting pilot projects delivering sight tests in special schools in Wales and Northern Ireland, both of which are currently being considered for wider roll-out.

Scotland is the first of the four nations to implement changes to community services at national-level, following changes introduced in October 2018. These will allow for longer appointments, or for tests to be split over different days. The AOP believes the other nations should follow Scotland’s lead and introduce similar changes to community services.

Commenting on the position statement, Henrietta Alderman, Chief Executive at the AOP, said: “We believe that eye health and care should be accessible to all. However, as demonstrated in our position statement, many of the most vulnerable patients are being disadvantaged under current services. The AOP will be using this position paper to support our campaign work on improving uptake of sight tests and the nation’s eye health, and will continue to support SeeAbility in challenging inequalities in service provision.”

The full position statement can be found on the AOP’s policy pages, along with 13 other statements that set out the organisation’s policies on subjects across the optical sector.

Further reading:

The full position statement can be found on the AOP’s policy pages

The Association of Optometrists (AOP's) new position statement

GOC appoints new Chair and Deputy Chairs of CET Approvers

November 2018

The General Optical Council (GOC) has appointed a new Chair and Deputy Chairs to oversee its CET (Continuing Education and Training) panel of approvers.
Kathy Morrison will be replacing Gordon Carson as the Chair of CET Approvers. She is the joint Programme Director of Optometry in NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and works as an independent prescribing optometrist in the community. She has previously taught at undergraduate level at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Andrew J Elder Smith will be joining as a Deputy Chair of CET Approvers. He currently works as a clinical tutor at the universities of Bradford and Manchester and as a contact lens specialist optometrist at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. He ran his own practice for 18 years and, since selling it, has worked as a professional services consultant to several contact lens manufacturers developing and running training programmes and CET materials.

Catherine Porter will be joining as a Deputy Chair of CET Approvers. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester and has been training undergraduate optometrists for nearly 20 years. She holds a PGCert in Higher Education and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Catherine frequently delivers CET to qualified optometrists as well as teaching on courses to help pre-registration optometrists pass their Common Final Assessment.

Gordon Carson will be leaving his post as Chair of CET Approvers after joining as the Chair in 2004. He will remain in his post until the end of this year to handover his role to Kathy.

Paying tribute to Gordon, GOC Chair Gareth Hadley said, “Gordon has made a seminal contribution to professional training and development over the past 14 years. We are grateful for all he has done to maintain and drive forward standards of eye care and we wish him well for the future.

“Our new appointees have a wealth of experience and expertise, and I’m confident they will continue Gordon’s fine work as the optical professions change in the future.”

News from General Optical Council meeting 14 November 2018

November 2018

Continuing Education and Training

Council decided that the next Continuing Education and Training (CET) cycle will be a standard three year cycle, running from 2019-21, before the GOC makes significant changes to the scheme from 2022.

The GOC had initially planned to make 2019 a one year transition period before fully revising the scheme from 2020. However, the input to its recent CET consultation – presented at the meeting by independent research agency Enventure – and other feedback showed that stakeholders, in particular CET providers, were concerned that they would not be able to meet the requirements of a revised system by January 2020.

Dr Subo Shanmuganathan, GOC Interim Director of Education, said: “There is a widespread recognition in the sector that CET needs to change to meet the challenges of the future and we want that to happen quickly.

“But our recent discussions with key stakeholders suggest that January 2020 – which would have come only a matter of months after a consultation next year – would have been too soon for providers and registrants to adequately prepare. Change is important but the consultation does not suggest that the need for change is so urgent that we should rush change through before providers are ready.

“So instead, the next CET cycle will be another three year cycle with the same requirements we have at the moment. This will give us the time to make long-term changes in a considered, evidence-based way that allows providers to make the necessary preparation for January 2022 and registrants to prepare themselves for a scheme that will have a greater emphasis on reflective learning.”

The GOC will now consult next year on changes to CET, which will come into effect for the 2022-24 cycle.

Meanwhile, the GOC is changing the MyCET online system so that it will be more user-friendly from January 2019. The system will work similarly to now but the GOC has used feedback from registrants, providers and approvers to improve the interface of the system, particularly on portable devices.

This work will be delivered by the current MyCET provider, Synaptiq Ltd trading as Perceptive, after the GOC tendered for the contract in April 2018 in accordance with EU procurement legislation.

Business Standards

Council discussed the feedback received from the GOC’s recent consultation on new draft Standards for Optical Businesses, which was presented to them by Pye Tait Consulting, the independent agency commissioned to undertake the research and analysis.

Overall, the draft Standards were positively received by respondents, with 79 per cent of respondents agreeing that the GOC’s expectations of optical businesses are clear, and 88 per cent agreeing the Standards are clear and easy to understand for registrants.

Most individual registrants, businesses and professional associations were broadly supportive, with a frequent comment being that they reflect ‘what businesses do anyway’.

The GOC is following up directly with some stakeholders to better understand and address issues they have raised covering areas such as wording and impacts.

The final version of the business standards and an accompanying implementation plan will be presented to Council in February 2019 for approval. The implementation plan will include a campaign to raise awareness within the optical sector, training for GOC staff and Fitness to Practise committees, publication of digital tools for registrants to help them in understanding and implementing the standards, and the potential commissioning of Standards-specific CET.

Provided that the new Standards for Optical Businesses are approved in February 2019, they will be published in April 2019 and will then come into effect in July 2019.

The consultation ran from 14 June 2018 until 30 August 2018 through the GOC’s new platform called the GOC Consultation Hub. There were 351 responses submitted through the consultation hub, and seven offline responses.

Registration fees

Council approved a £350 registration fee for fully qualified registrants and body corporates for the 2019/20 year. This is a £10 (2.9 per cent) increase from the previous year, which is broadly in line with current inflation.

The fee increase is part of a three year budget strategy to moderately increase registration fees each year to ensure that the GOC has the sufficient funds necessary to carry out its statutory public protection duties.

The GOC’s registration fees rules are available on its website:

ABDO responds to GOC plan for new 3-year CET cycle

November 2018

In response to the announcement by the GOC of a new 3-year CET cycle, Sir Antony Sir Anthony Garrett CBE HonFBDO, ABDO General Secretary said, “We welcome the decision by the GOC to start a new 3 year CET cycle from January. The proposed one-year option was not satisfactory at all and would have sent the wrong message to registrants. ABDO has consistently lobbied the GOC to postpone the introduction of a new system until the education review has been completed. It is very welcome that the GOC has shown that it is open to change. We look forward to working with the GOC to develop a better CET /CPD system starting in 2022.”

ABDO Head of CET Alex Webster B Mus, MSc, PGDipE, FBDO CL, FHEA said, “At ABDO CET, although we look forward to a progressive change to the GOC regulated professional education scheme in the future, as the essential work of the Education Strategic Review requires a longer time frame to complete than originally anticipated and the obvious impact this review will have on CET, we welcome a change in the GOC's plans from a CET transition year in to a full three year CET cycle in 2019-2021. We will continue to work closely with the GOC to support the development of a new scheme in 2022 and will continue to support our membership with their professional development and CET requirements over the next 3-year cycle.”

FODO make visit to the University of the West of England (UWE)

November 2018

Last week members of the FODO team and Board were shown around the new school of optometry at UWE by senior members of the UWE faculty.

The course, which started in September, was set up with support from the FODO Education Trust.

The FODO team were impressed with the facilities and the ambitions for the course, which focuses on giving undergraduates extensive practical experience in high street practices and specialist clinics, as well as on campus.

Optometry Wales ‘Question Time’ Road Shows reach end of the road.

November 2018

The Optometry Wales ‘Question Time’ roadshows on the future of eye care in Wales reached their climax on 7 November, at a final event in the cathedral city of St Asaph in North Wales.

Once again there was an excellent panel and very good attendance from local optometrists, dispensing opticians and practice owners, both independents and multiples.

Professor David Thomson (ex-City University) opened the session with a presentation on the impacts of technology and digitalisation on eye care.

‘Question Time’ and discussions then ranged from the implications of technological change for the sector in Wales, through workforce issues - there is a major shortage of optometrists in North Wales - likely futures for GOS, EHEW and fees, to practical advice on how to manage the transition from mostly retail to clinical.

The roadshows are due to be followed by ‘Any Answers’ feedback and an Optometry Wales webinar later this year.

American Academy of Optometry announces Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO, as President

November 2018

Barbara CafferyAlexandra Perez
The American Academy of Optometry is pleased to announce Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO, as the incoming President of the American Academy of Optometry. Dr. Caffery was formally inducted during the Academy’s annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas on November 10, 2018. She is the first Canadian woman to serve as president.

“The American Academy of Optometry is an inspiration to each of its members. Here, dedicated practitioners and vision scientists participate by teaching, mentoring and collaborating, to promote the best evidence-based eye care and to disseminate vital vision science,” said Dr. Caffery.

Dr. Caffery is a Toronto optometrist who has worked in a group practice since her 1977 graduation from the New England College of Optometry. She is also a member of the University Health Network Multidisciplinary Sjögren’s Syndrome Clinic and the Kensington Vision and Research Centre’s Therapeutic Contact Lens Clinic. She is a Diplomate of the Academy’s Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses & Refractive Technologies. Dr. Caffery spends her days doing comprehensive eye care. Her areas of expertise are dry eye disease and contact lenses. She completed her Master of Science degree in Nutrition in 1987. She completed her PhD program in Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in 2009 upon defending her thesis titled, “Sjögren’s Syndrome: A Clinical and Biochemical Analysis.” She has done several clinical trials in dry eye disease and has published widely in the areas of contact lenses, dry eye and Sjögren’s Syndrome. Dr. Caffery is an invited lecturer at the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science.

Dr. Caffery has served on the American Academy of Optometry board of directors since 2007, most recently serving as Secretary-Treasurer (2015 & 2016) and President-Elect (2017 & 2018). She was instrumental in the formation of the Fellows Doing Research Special Interest Group, created to train and encourage the performance of clinical research by Fellows of the Academy.

During the 2019 & 2020 term, Dr. Caffery will serve alongside Dr. Timothy McMahon (President-Elect), Dr. Susan Cotter (Secretary-Treasurer), Dr. Joseph Shovlin (Immediate Past-President), Dr. Jenny Coyle, Dr. Andrew Mick, Dr. Carl Spear, and Dr. Jeff Walline.

AOP responds to the GOC’S change of plan on the CET REVIEW

November 2018

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has welcomed the General Optical Council’s (GOC) decision to change its plans for ongoing professional training in 2019, while warning that the regulator must raise its game on planning and delivering major projects.

The GOC’s Council today agreed to a major change in the timetable for the Continuing Education and Training (CET) review. The GOC had previously intended that 2019 would be a ‘transitional year’ for CET, ahead of major changes to be introduced in a new three-year cycle starting in January 2020. The GOC has now decided to begin a new three-year cycle under its current rules next January, with changes being introduced in 2022.

Henrietta Alderman, Chief Executive of the AOP, said:

“We are keen to see the GOC’s CET scheme become more flexible and self-directed, to support optical professionals in taking on expanded clinical roles.

“But during the past six months we have become increasingly concerned that the GOC would not meet the ambitious reform timetable it had set itself. In September we urged the GOC to urgently review whether it could deliver reforms in time for 2020 – and advised that if not, it should drop its plans for a transitional year.

“We are pleased that the GOC listened to our advice and has now reset the timetable. We look forward to working with the new leadership team at the GOC to ensure that the new scheme, to be introduced in 2022, is as effective as possible.

“However, while we welcome the GOC’s decision, it has come very late for education providers and practitioners. We hope and expect that the GOC will learn lessons about the need for its major policy projects to be carefully planned, given the impact that late changes can have on us and those they regulate.

“The AOP will now work with our members to ensure that they are clear about what they will need to do to meet the GOC’s requirements in January and beyond.”

GOC appoints Dionne Spence as Director of Casework and Resolutions

November 2018

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today announced that Dionne Spence has been appointed as its Director of Casework and Resolutions.

Dionne will begin her role at the GOC on 28 January 2019. She replaces Lisa Davis, who left as Director of Fitness to Practise earlier this year to take up a Chief Executive role.
Dionne is currently Head of Casework Teams at the Financial Ombudsman Service. Prior to that she has had roles at the Prison and Probation Ombudsman, HM Inspectorate of Court Administration and HM Courts Service.

Dionne Spence said, “My top priority when I arrive at the GOC will be to help speed up the fitness to practise process and I’m looking forward to tackling this when I join in January. A quicker process, while continuing to deliver fair and correct outcomes, is in the interests of patients and registrants alike.”

Lesley Longstone, GOC Interim Chief Executive and Registrar, said, “I am pleased to welcome Dionne to our team. Her experience of leading large teams working on complex casework will be of huge benefit as we look to improve the time we take to deal with complaints.

“We have invested in more staff to help us speed up the FTP process, and policy changes such as consensual panel disposal and our new acceptance criteria will help too. Dionne’s experience and expertise will ensure we make the most of these opportunities.”

GOC consults on new Education Standards and Learning Outcomes

November 2018

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today launched a consultation on new draft standards for education providers and learning outcomes for students as part of its Education Strategic Review (ESR).

The purpose of the ESR is to ensure that students are equipped for the roles for the future and this means having standards for education providers and learning outcomes for students that reflect how the optical sector is evolving to meet the needs of patients. It will also require a robust approach to the accreditation and quality assurance of education programmes.

GOC Interim Director of Education Dr Subo Shanmuganathan said, “The aim of the new standards and learning outcomes is to deliver more flexibility to education providers while taking into account the need for a greater focus on clinical training and the reality of increased multi-disciplinary work"

“The proposed learning outcomes and standards have been drafted to incorporate feedback from the previous consultation on ESR concepts and principles. There are five proposed standards covering areas including quality of learning, patient safety and access to clinical experience."

“The draft learning outcomes would replace the current competencies required by all students to complete before they join the register as a qualified optical professional. The proposed outcomes cover technical skills and the ‘softer’ skills required to become a professional.”

There are separate draft learning outcomes for student optometrists, dispensing opticians and contact lens opticians. For independent prescribers, the GOC is proposing to adopt the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Competency Framework for all Prescribers.

The consultation asks for feedback on the opportunities and risks, as well as the content and drafting of the proposed standards and learning outcomes, including any areas that may have been missed.

The consultation closes on 25 February 2019 and the GOC will analyse the feedback before publishing final versions.

To respond to the consultation, visit the GOC Consultation Hub.

GOC introduces Acceptance Criteria policy

November 2018

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today published its new fitness to practise Acceptance Criteria.

The Acceptance Criteria are a case management tool for the GOC Fitness to Practise (FTP) team to help decide whether or not to accept a complaint as an allegation of impaired fitness to practise.

If a complaint does not meet the Acceptance Criteria, the GOC will not open an investigation into whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. The criteria apply to all complaints relating to individual registrants.

The GOC will regularly review the criteria to ensure it is up to date in reflecting changes to legislation and case law and remains consistent with other associated guidance documents.

Keith Watts, GOC FTP Head of Case Progression, said “Fitness to practise is about dealing with serious misconduct, not minor clinical or consumer concerns which could not call into question a practitioner’s fitness to practise. The Criteria will make it easier for us to filter out complaints that could not lead to a finding of impairment, and will allow us to focus our resources where they are most needed. The Criteria will also have a secondary benefit in helping us to speed up our FTP process.”

Further information about the policy can be found here.

College of Optometrists Life and Honorary Fellowships for outstanding contributions to the profession.

November 2018

The College of Optometrists will be awarding two new Life Fellowships and one Honorary Fellowship at the Diploma Ceremony on 6 November 2018. The Life Fellowships recognise members of the College for their contribution to the College or to their profession. The Honorary Fellowship recognises individuals involved in the wider eye healthcare and vision science professions for their outstanding contribution to optometry or to the College.

The two new Life Fellows of the College of Optometrists:

Ruth Brough BSc FCOptom
Ruth Brough is being recognised for her contribution to the development and implementation of the Scheme for Registration as the former Lead Assessor for the College. Ruth’s capacity for hard work enabled her to organise the work-based assessment in record time, producing a high quality Scheme.

Professor Jennifer Craig PhD FCOptom FAAO FBCLA FCCLSA
Professor Craig aided the development of the profession through teaching and education, especially in the area of ocular surface disease. Jennifer’s determination and ability to succeed has made her an extraordinary role model to all, both in her academic and clinical career.

New Honorary Fellow of the College of Optometrists:

James Russell Hon FCOptom FBDO FEAOO
James has helped to build collaboration between optometrists and dispensing opticians, which has encouraged and strengthened greater cross-professional working.

Professor Edward Mallen MCOptom, President of the College of Optometrists, said:
“Fellowship is the highest award granted by the College and, acknowledges the most outstanding achievements made by those working within the profession. It is a great privilege to present these awards, that recognise the value of the extraordinary contribution and commitment made by these individuals to the advancement of the profession and ultimately to the benefit of our patients.”

The College has also awarded four Fellowships by Portfolio to recognise achievement in the workplace:

Dr Stefan Bandlitz BSc FCOptom has been awarded a Fellowship of the College recognising his optometric research, optometric education and higher qualifications in vision science.

Kamlesh Gohil BSc FCOptom has been awarded Fellowship of the College in recognition of his clinical practice, optometric education, provision of visual or wider healthcare, and management of visual healthcare.

Alison Matthews BSc FCOptom DipCLP DipTp(IP) has been awarded Fellowship of the College in recognition of her clinical practice, provision of visual or wider healthcare, management of visual healthcare and higher qualifications in vision science.

Andrew Millington BSc FCOptom has been awarded Fellowship of the College in recognition of his clinical practice and optometric education.

GOC erases Lincolnshire based optometrist.

November 2018

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Paul Fontaine, an optometrist based in Lincolnshire, from its register. He will now be unable to practise as an optometrist in the UK.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct relating to the Registrant’s conduct toward a patient, provision of an inadequate standard of care at a sight test and record keeping failures.

In making the decision, the Committee, chaired by Ian Crookall, said: “The Committee found that the lack of any remediation by the registrant and the absence of any adequate insight into his conduct means that he presents a high risk of repetition of such conduct to the detriment of patients.

“In the circumstances, the Committee was satisfied that the Registrant was currently impaired by reason of his misconduct.

“The Committee determined that an Order for Erasure was the only appropriate and proportionate sanction that would sufficiently protect the public and demonstrate to the public that the regulator took seriously the concerns that arose in this case given the serious departure from professional standards.”

Mr Fontaine has until 20 November 2018 to appeal his erasure, during which time he is suspended from the register under an immediate suspension order.

American Academy of Optometry Announces Executive Director Departure

October 2018

The AAO, a professional association for optometrists, vision scientists and optometry students, has announced that its long-serving Executive Director, Lois Schoenbrun, CAE, FAAO, will step down from her position in April 2019.

Ms. Schoenbrun has been executive director of the American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Optometry Foundation since 1996 – a remarkable 22+ years. The organization is initiating a search to identify a new leader.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve this organization through nearly 23 years of growth and evolution,” said Lois Schoenbrun, CAE, FAAO, Executive Director. “During that period, we’ve been able to grow from a staff of five to a staff of 18, move our headquarters from Rockville, Maryland to Orlando, Florida, grow membership from 4,979 in 1996 to more than 11,000 today, increase assets from $1.1 million to more than $19.3 million, and expand our annual meeting from 4,089 attendees to an anticipated 8,000+ in 2018. I am very grateful to have had the pleasure of working with so many talented and dedicated members and staff during my tenure.”

“Lois has been an incredible leader as our executive director and will leave the Academy in excellent shape, with sound financial reserves, growing membership and annual meeting attendance, and programs and policies that serve the membership and the profession well,” said Joseph Shovlin, OD, FAAO, American Academy of Optometry President. “I truly appreciate all that she has contributed in her 22+ years with our Academy family.”

The American Academy of Optometry is drawing on the steps in its succession plan to guide the process of selecting a new executive director. It has formed a search committee to oversee the process and has retained executive search firm Vetted Solutions to coordinate the search. The search will commence immediately, and the organization’s goal is to have a new executive director identified by February 1, 2019.

Second Warning from GOC: Over 8,000 registrants still to complete CET

October 2018

Over 8,000 General Optical Council (GOC) registrants have yet to meet their Continuing Education and Training (CET) requirements. Currently, only 60 per cent of registrants have met all their requirements with just over two months of the cycle remaining.

Registrants have until 31 December to meet all their CET requirements, but if they fail to do so they will be removed from the register and will no longer be able to practise in the UK. They would also be removed from the NHS Performers’ List.

Registrants must have accepted any pending points in MyCET by 31 December to count towards the 2016-18 cycle. These points cannot be saved to count towards future requirements.

Marcus Dye, GOC Head of Standards and CET, said: “The deadline for the current cycle is quickly approaching. We strongly encourage registrants to plan the rest of their year accordingly in order to meet all their requirements by 31 December and avoid being removed from the register.

“We also want to instil in registrants the importance of logging into their CET record and accepting their points, as although they may have undertaken all the required learning, it will not count until all points have been accepted.”

AAO announces Dr. Alexandra Benavente-Perez as 2019 Career Development Awardee

October 2018

The American Academy of Optometry is pleased to announce Alexandra Benavente-Perez, MCOptom, PhD, FAAO, as the 2019 Academy Career Development Award recipient. The Academy will provide a maximum of $50,000 in direct costs per year for up to two years, potentially renewable once for a total of up to four years of funding. The State University of New York will provide matching funds, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 per year for each year of funding.

Alexandra Perez
Dr. Benavente-Perez was selected from a pool of applicants by an Academy committee based on her potential for growth and future major extramural funding. The funding will help support her research focused on developing a novel experimental model of progressive myopia to study the early retinal changes associated with high myopia.

The Career Development Award is designed for optometric educators and/or scientists involved in vision research as long as the case can be made for the potential to acquire future extramural funding. Preference is for innovative, original, independent, Principal Investigator driven projects. It has been recognized for some time that young investigators, including optometric investigators, take many years after the inception of their careers before successfully acquiring Federal research funding. In fact, the mean age of first time National Institutes of Health (NIH) grantees is over 40 years of age. In an effort to positively influence and reduce the age at which early stage optometric researchers attain large scale federal support, the Academy launched the Career Development Award.

“I am very grateful to the American Academy of Optometry, its Research Committee and the Board of Directors for this award. As a clinician-scientist trained under the mentorship of leading research experts in clinical and experimental myopia, I want to contribute to the development of preventive and therapeutic treatment strategies for myopic degeneration - known to be a significant public health concern. I speculate that there are several early retinal changes that are tipping-points for the development of the sight-threatening myopic retinal changes. In collaboration with Drs. Suresh Viswanathan, Scott Read and Miduturu Srinivas, I will develop a novel model of progressive myopia and describe its associated anatomical and functional changes to potentially offer new avenues for effective early interventions,” Dr. Benavente-Perez said in a statement.

Dr. Benavente-Perez is an Associate Clinical Professor at The State University of New York College of Optometry. Her primary research interest is to understand the visual signals that trigger these eye growth changes that eventually lead to myopia. In particular, the role that the peripheral retina and eye shape might have as predictors of future changes in refraction. Another focus of her research is to understand the interaction between ocular size and vascular physiology.

Care Quality Commission fees consultation – have your say

October 2018

Today the CQC have published a consultation document about the fees we propose to charge registered providers in 2019/20 and they are inviting you to have your say.

Theye are required to consult widely on any proposed changes to the fees they charge and they say they will continue to give providers and their representatives the opportunity to review, comment upon and be able to plan for any changes that will affect them. The fees paid by providers enable CQC to fulfil its purpose of making sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care.

The consultation proposals the CQC have published follow the plans they set out in previous consultations to meet the Treasury’s requirement to recover their chargeable costs in full from providers.

They say "In 2015/16 our budget was agreed at £249 million. We spent £239 million and have continued to drive down our costs so that our planned expenditure for 2019/20 is £217 million. This is a result of the controls we have exercised over our spending and increased efficiency in our inspections and other operational activity. We will continue to look carefully at our costs, and to demonstrate that they are is fair, efficient, effective and proportionate."

" We are constantly refining our costing model to ensure we are better able to assess whether the fees we charge match the cost of regulation. Our assessments tell us that we need to rebalance the overall fees charged to ensure one sector does not subsidise the cost of us regulating another."

" Our proposals for the coming financial year reflect the move to a position to recover all our costs for our chargeable activities through fees, as well as a desire to address sectors where we have identified the need to adjust the cost of regulation and fees recovered. We are therefore making specific proposals for:

• the community social care sector (which includes domiciliary care services), where we propose a fee increase, as the final year of the planned four-year trajectory to full chargeable cost recovery
• the dental sector, where we propose a fee increase to better align against our costs
• the residential social care sector, where we propose a fee decrease to better align against our costs.

The following examples are based on our calculations of an average provider in each sector and the proposed change to their fee:

• We estimate that for community social care locations supporting up to 22 service users their fee increase would be no more than £144 per annum. This represents half of all locations.
• We are proposing that all providers will see the same flat percentage increase. Representing almost two-thirds of dental providers, single location dental practices with between one and three dental chairs would see their fee increase by no more than £97 per annum.
• The average residential social care provider with 26-30 beds at one location would see a fee reduction of £64 under the new proposals.

Most NHS trusts and NHS GPs will see a small change to their fees from April 2019 because of the changes we made to their fees structure last year. This is because each provider’s fee is calculated by looking at their size against the total size of the sector, both of which change year-on-year. However, this will not alter the total fees collected overall for these sectors. Community social care providers will also be affected by the structural changes made last year, as well as the overall increase mentioned above.

We recognise the financial challenges that providers face, and we do not underestimate the impact of fees on providers. We believe that our proposals for 2019/20 will rebalance fees across the sectors, while preventing fees from fluctuating unreasonably year on year. They also reflect our strategic ambitions to continue to use data more effectively in assessing the costs of regulation.

Full details and descriptions of each of our proposals are given in the consultation document and draft regulatory impact assessment.

When we have analysed the feedback from this consultation and in January 2019 we will prepare a response and a final fees scheme. CQC’s Board will recommend the final fees scheme to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whose consent is required in order for the scheme to come into effect. We expect to publish our response and our final fees scheme in March 2019, for implementation on 1 April 2019.

You can find the consultation document and respond using our online form by visiting here The consultation is open for responses until midday on 17 January 2019.

Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) provides guidance on Wet AMD after drug decision.

October 2018

Options for the treatment of wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The High Court decision (#1) on 21st September 2018 widens the choice available for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for clinicians, and for patients. This will have a significant impact on organisations involved in the commissioning and service delivery of these interventions.

The offer of a choice of treatment is central to this judgement. It would be inappropriate for commissioners to consider introducing any changes to treatment without providing this choice, regardless of cost considerations.

Changes in therapeutic practice will have implications across the whole wet AMD pathway, affecting patients at various stages in their management from referral to active treatment and subsequent monitoring. This will require additional capacity to manage patient flows across the service system, and this will need to be planned for to safeguard patients during any treatment transitions.

Recommended Actions

NHS Commissioners and NHS Trusts should therefore set out their plans for:

i. How patient choice will operate to enable shared decision-making and informed choices.

ii. Maintaining supply and availability of all NICE recommended drugs for the treatment of wet AMD.

iii. Service capacity management to accommodate any change to therapeutic practice, including clear evidence-based protocols and processes for reviewing and monitoring the change, in accordance with safe practice.

[A suggested model is the SAFE-AMD Service System2 developed by the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning]


#1: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/bayer-and-novartis-v-nhs-darlington-ccg-judgment.pdf

2. SAFE –Age Related Macular Degeneration. 2018. Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning.

Scotland - GOS Mandatory Training for Optometrists.

October 2018

Optometrists in Scotland have been sent information about the arrangements for new annual mandatory training for optometrists for the first year (October 2018 – December 2019), which is part of the recently announced GOS reforms in Scotland.

The mandatory training should take approximately 1 hour to complete and will attract 1 CET point.

You can access all the essential information here: GOS Mandatory Training. please contact the Turas helpdesk if you are likely to have problems completing the training before December 2019.

DOCET launches Young Eye CET programme

October 2018

Following its Ageing Eye series, DOCET has launched a series for optometrists on the young eye, with a four-part course on Embryology. The course follows a foetus from conception to birth, focusing on the development of the eye.

The series examines the role of genetics in eye disease as well as the issues that can arise at each developmental stage, each part provides one non-interactive CET point.

American Academy of Optometry Makes Donation in Honour of 2018 Brien Holden Humanitarian Award

October 2018

The American Academy of Optometry is pleased to announce a $5,000 donation has been made to Fuji Vision Aid Mission in honor of Akio Kanai, OD, the 2018 recipient of the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award. The funds will be used to help provide patient care to overseas refugees. Dr. Kanai will be recognized at the Academy 2018 San Antonio Awards Ceremony on Friday, November 9, 2018.

The Brien Holden Humanitarian Award honors the memory and work of Professor Brien Holden, PhD, DSc, FAAO. This award recognizes an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to improve eye care within a country or region. In particular, the award acknowledges humanitarian efforts in the non-profit sector that build or support the development of sustainable eye care systems in developing communities. The Academy annually makes a $5,000 donation to the charity or cause of the awardee’s choice.

“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award. I am very grateful to the Brien Holden Vision Institute and all the members of the awards committee for recognizing the value in what I have done in my optometric career. Just like the late Dr. Holden, a passion for caring the vulnerable has led me to where I am today. Improving vision of refugees brings their future in better focus, a little bit brighter. I hope that I keep working to help others for the rest of my life.,” said Dr. Kanai.

Dr. Kanai was recognized for this award due to his tireless and sustained contributions in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Since 1984, Dr. Kanai has been active in advocacy for access to eye care and in providing direct care to over 100,000 refugees in difficult and hazardous environments including Thailand, Nepal, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and most recently, to the displaced Rohingya.

The Brien Holden Humanitarian Award, established by the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Holden family estate, will be awarded annually. Nominations for 2019 should include two letters of nomination from Academy Fellows and a CV of the nominee. Nominations are due by April 1, 2019 to HelenV@aaoptom.org.

2018 American Academy of Optometry Resident Travel Fellowship Recipients Announced

October 2018

The AAO congratulates the recipients of the 2018 Resident Travel Fellowship Awards.

These travel fellowships will allow residents to attend Academy 2018 San Antonio, November 7-10, 2018.

Allergan Resident Travel Fellowships

Ayah Ahamed, OD, MS, State University of New York
Saad Ahmed, OD, New England College of Optometry
Brittney Brady, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Margaret Brucker, OD, The Ohio State University
Diana Chen, OD, University of Houston
Alise Chin, OD, Pacific University
Marc Deeley, OD, New England College of Optometry
Carolyn Draude, OD, Southern College of Optometry
Alyssa Drew, OD, Ferris State University
Elizabeth Fahy, OD, The Ohio State University
Adriana Ferreira, OD, University of Missouri at St. Louis
Micaela Gobeille, OD, MS, State University of New York
Alice Grasso, OD, Salus University
Alicia Hanley, OD, New England College of Optometry
Kathryn Hohs, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Tatjana Karovic, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Ryan Kern, OD, Salus University
Paula Kutzner, OD, MEd, Marshall B. Ketchum University
Alice Lim, OD, Salus University
Alexandra Literski, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Megan Lopez, OD, New England College of Optometry
Margaret Moore, OD, New England College of Optometry
Katherine Nelson, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Jennifer Nguyen, OD, MS, State University of New York
Maria Paradis, OD, Southern College of Optometry
Caitlyn Reynolds, OD, The Ohio State University
Shelby Rogers, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Jasmine Roth, OD, New England College of Optometry
Andrew Sahawneh, OD, Marshall B. Ketchum University
Aaron Salzano, OD, Marshall B. Ketchum University
Sarah Sandhaus, OD, University of California, Berkeley
Kelly Seidler, OD, Salus University
Jenna Stoddard, OD, Salus University
Jenna Sullivan, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Stephanie Uchida, OD, Northeastern State University
Heather Van Law, OD, MS, University of California, Berkeley
Amy Vinogradov, OD, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Courtney Ward, OD, Southern College of Optometry
Kendra Weiler, OD, MS, Pacific University
Lauren Yoon, OD, Ferris State University

Cornea, Contact Lenses and Refractive Technologies Resident Travel Fellowships
Sponsored by CooperVision

Nikita Aneja, OD, New England College of Optometry
Tristan Barrueco, OD, State University of New York
Manveen Bedi, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Jonathan Chen, OD, University of Houston
Emily Cheng, OD, State University of New York
Rebecca Chung, OD, Pacific University
Marie-Michele Dupuis, OD, University of Montreal
Andrew Fischer, OD, Indiana University
Michael Franzone, OD, MPH, MCPHS
Madeleine Hacker, OD, Ferris State University
Taylor Harris, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Swati Kumar, OD, New England College of Optometry
Samantha Myers, OD, Salus University
Vakishan Nadarajah, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
Marcus Noyes, OD, University of Houston
Jocelyn Ou, OD, State University of New York
Sergiu Picioreanu, OD, University of Waterloo
Alexandre Poirier-Lavallee, OD, University of Montreal
Kellen Riccobono, OD, University of Houston
Laurel Roberts, OD, Southern College of Optometry
Felicia Satrio, OD, University of Houston
Lenna Walker, OD, MS, New England College of Optometry
Jessica Walter, OD, Salus University
Lily Wang, OD, University of California Berkeley
Kimberly Weisenberger, OD, The Ohio State University
Alexa Westerbeck, OD, University of California Berkeley
Bryan Williams, OD, University of Houston
Danica Yang, OD, State University of New York
Evelyn Zhang, OD, University of Waterloo
Katherine Zhang, OD, University of Houston

American Academy of Optometry Florida Chapter Resident Travel Fellowships

Brian Roberts, OD, NOVA Southeastern University
Kiri J. Rutledge, OD, William V. Chappell, Jr. VA Outpatient Clinic
Ryan Nguyen, OD, NOVA Southeastern University
Samantha Fernandez, OD, Miami VA Medical Center

Recipients will be recognized at the Student and Resident Awards Lunch on Thursday, November 8 from Noon to 1 PM in Stars at Night Ballroom B2 in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Cornea, Contact Lens and Refractive Technologies Resident Travel Fellowships will be presented at the CooperVision booth #1635 from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM in the exhibit hall.

GOC appoints Dr Subo Shanmuganathan as Interim Director of Education

October 2018

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today announced that Dr Subo Shanmuganathan has joined as its Interim Director of Education.

Subo began her role at the GOC today and will be in place for the next nine months.

Subo has extensive experience as a director in various roles throughout the charity and university sectors. Her previous roles include Director of Education, Policy and Research at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and Director of Skills Development at Relate UK.

Dr Subo Shanmuganathan said, “The Education Strategic Review and CET Review are both vital as the GOC makes sure the optical workforce is fit for the future in a fast-changing landscape. I look forward to working with the GOC’s staff, Council and stakeholders to make both projects a success and ensure that the education of optometrists and dispensing opticians keeps patients safe as new technology develops and practitioners’ scopes of practice change.”

Lesley Longstone, GOC Interim Chief Executive and Registrar, said, “I am pleased to welcome Subo to our team and I am confident that she will bring the experience and expertise we need to continue our work in modernising optical education through our Education Strategic Review and CET Review.”

Optometry Scotland Roadshows announced

October 2018

Optometry Scotland will be running five roadshows with Practitioner Services Division (PSD) of NHS Scotland over the autumn.

The roadshows will cover ePayments and all things electronic and the new GOS Regulations, as well as the OS FAQs relating to this and will take place from 6pm to 9.30pm.

The dates and locations are as follows:

• Aberdeen 31st October – Altons Hotel
• Inverness 5th November – Venue to be confirmed
• Glasgow 13th November – Hilton Bothwell Street
• Edinburgh 19th November – Hilton Grosvenor
• Stirling 26th November – Stirling Court

VAO publishes Annual Report ahead of World Sight Day on October 11th 2018

October 2018

The VAO has published a report on a very succesful year. You can view the report by clicking here.

Make double the difference this World Sight Day - 11th October 2018

This World Sight Day, Freedom Destinations - one of the UK's largest independent holiday companies, will be doubling every donation up to the first £5,000 raised as part of our Big World Sight Day Lunch. If you would like to make double the difference this World Sight Day, why not find out more by clicking here.

FODO announce that they will be supporting WSD activities, both independently and as part of the European Coalition for Vision (ECV).

David Hewlett, in his capacity as Chair of the ECV, will be attending a joint event between the ECV, MedTech Europe and the European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) to promote the importance of good vision and eye health.

Why not tweet your support for World Sight Day. The International Association for the Prevention of Blindness has published a variety of resources that people can use to support and promote WSD, which you can find here.

Changes to GOS 4 claims

October 2018

NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) have been asked by NHS England to run a national pilot for the pre-authorisation of adult GOS 4 vouchers. It is expected that this pilot will begin in November 2018.

Under the new system, when a patient asks for repair or replacement the GOS contractor will ring NHSBSA to explain the circumstances of the request. This will be checked against a standardised list of conditions (and escalated to a clinical advisor if the circumstances are not covered by the list If the request is approved the contractor will be issued with a unique code, which can then be added to the GOS 4 form before submitting to PCSE for payment. Any claims that have been submitted inappropriately (i.e. with missing or incorrect codes) will be recovered via the PPV process.

NHS England will provide a full briefing paper, once the date of go-live has been confirmed. They have confirmed that all GOS 4 claims for adults will need to be submitted in this way for the duration of the pilot.

Domiciliary visits – new online pre-notification system

Ocvtober 2018

Last week the PCSE announced that as part of their ongoing commitment to create national, consistent services for all their users they have introduced an online form for the pre-visit notification of domiciliary visits.

The new online form can be accessed via the link below and provides an easy way to enter and submit all the information required in a Pre-Visit Notification (PVN).

To complete the form, contractors will need to provide the following details:

Contractor details (name, email, address, phone number)
Organisation name
PCT code (this should be the same code that appears on the associated GOS6 claim)
Contractor Code

Please note: The PCT code and Contractor Codes can be found in the two boxes in the top right corner of your GOS submission headers e.g. 5C5 121

Date of visit

Address of where the visit will take place, including the post code and the type of premises

Name of the patient(s) – please note this detail must be the same as on the GOS 6 otherwise it can’t be matched

ODS code (also known as TP code) – if you do not know the ODS code for your practice you should contact the Exeter Helpdesk on 0300 3034 034 or E-mail: helpdesk@nhs.net

The new online form, and a number of FAQs can be accessed here.

Keeping abreast of assistive technologies for those with Sight Loss.

October 2018

In a piece written by Visualise Training who are providing the Beyond Seeing Seminars around the UK for Opticians they highlight some simple facts and tips for Optical Practice Teams led by Optometrists and their staff to show patients with needs what is now available in assistive technologies.

We will repeat this and other helpful articles in our clinical briefing section so that the information is archived for continued reference.

Assistive Technology

Accessibility Keyboad
As an optometrist or optician, your responsibilities to your patients begin and end with preventing or ameliorating loss of vision, don’t they?

Actually, I don’t believe they do. For a large number of people in the UK, sight loss will become a fact of life. Don’t you, as an eye care professional, also have a responsibility to this group of patients? Shouldn’t you be able to advise them on other ways of ‘seeing’ that can help them to maintain independent, fulfilled lives connected to their communities? It’s not all about optical magnification there is so much more now in the 21st century.

The developing role of assistive technologies

The recent growth in assistive technologies for people with visual impairments has been exponential. Technological advances have presented visually impaired people with formerly unimagined opportunities to retain their independence. The very pace of this change has inevitably created its own issues, and it remains a constant challenge to keep abreast of new developments, but it is a challenge that surely all eye care professionals have a responsibility to rise to if they are to provide their patients with the very best care.

In this article I have chosen to highlight just a few of the assistive technology advances that have allowed visually impaired people to make huge strides towards independent living.
Digital accessibility tools

The digital age revolutionised pretty much everything for everyone, including people with low vision and, nowadays, digital tools are increasingly being designed with visual impairment in mind. These tools not only offer bespoke magnification and text presentation options on every kind of screen, from iPhone, tablet to laptop and desktop, but also include ‘read text out loud’ functions.

If you feel like doing some research of your own, check out Eye-Pal, Henshaws and OpenBook.

Out and about

There have been huge advances in navigational technology over the last decade, and many of these Apps now have blind-aware adaptions for people with restricted vision.

Check out The Seeing Eye GPS App, Soundscape and Nearby Explorer, which both announce locations and junction approaches.

Applying everyday technologies

Technologies used by the wider community can also have hugely positive impacts on the lives of people with restricted vision. Lifestyle gadgets such as Alexa, which provide remote access to technology via voice command, are incredibly useful tools for people with visual disabilities. Digital apps such as Uber also offer enormous mobility benefits for visually impaired people who are no longer able to drive.

The assistive technology frontier

Certain assistive technologies are necessarily designed with the specific needs of visually impaired people in mind. Often, this specificity means that the developing technology remains more expensive for longer, but some of the most exciting advances in assistive technology, such as Orcam, Oxsight and smart-cane technology for example, have already become readily affordable.

Orcam, an assistive technology device specifically designed for use by people with visual impairments, has functions including an ability to read text out aloud and identify in-store products, and it also incorporates exciting facial recognition software.

Smart-cane technology has already successfully overcome many of the impediments associated with traditional probing canes, which are great for identifying curbs and large obstacles but often miss items suspended from above. The smart-cane device, attached to a traditional white cane, works by emitting vibrations when it detects obstacles of any kind in front of the user, at whatever height, alerting him or her to their presence.

What will the future hold?

No doubt, as technological progress continues, exciting new assistive technologies will continue to be developed; this may well end up improving upon, and replacing, many of the cutting-edge aids detailed in this article.

As opticians and optometrists, I passionately believe that you have a responsibility to keep yourself informed of these developments, so that you are able to provide your patients with the most up to date advice on the very best assistive technology available.

Assistive technology changes lives for the better, and you are in the unique and privileged position to be able to drive that change.

To join us on our mission to improve the lives of people with low vision, book on one of our Seeing Beyond the Eyes CET workshops here

Read more articles from Dan Williams in our Clinical Briefings.

Including:

From a selection written by Visualise Training & Consultancy:

Cuts to low vision services: savage and short-term

Supporting low vision patients who can no longer drive

My Guide Dog in his Shining Armour; Barking Mad


 
 
 
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