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Enhanced services – stepping up the pace

Adam Wannell, head of clinical optometry gives us his view on the changing landscape of high street optics:

  • Why the increased focus on enhanced services?
  • Well, this isn’t a new focus, Specsavers has had this focus internally for a long time before I joined and brought that view to the rest of the sector in 2015. There has been a growing need for optometrists to become more involved with clinical services for some time and it is a natural progression of the profession. The NHS now has a massive burden both from population increase and improved detection and treatment of eye disease. When you combine this with a shift in barriers impeding our involvement with clinical services, for example independent prescribing, the introduction of post-graduate optometry education and a desire from optometrists themselves to be more clinically involved, it is not surprising.

  • How do you plan to roll out the process nationwide?
  • Through working with optometrists to improve their baseline capability and doing this in such a way to quality assure standards through achieving accreditation for that particular skill. This has already been achieved nationwide by minor eye conditions service (Mecs) accreditations and is ongoing with glaucoma level 1 and 2.

    The accreditation baseline for all optometrists is just the start, record numbers of optometrists are committed to higher qualifications making enhanced optical services (EOS) a daily part of clinical practice.

  • How will you use your clinical experience in your new role?
  • I feel very fortunate to have worked and trained alongside many experts in a variety of hospital clinics and community practices. I can draw on my knowledge as a clinician with my understanding of community optometry and my passion to teach in order to help provide training and guidance for optometrists getting involved with EOS.

  • How will optometrists ensure their patients see them as healthcare providers?
  • It is up to each and every optometrist to educate our patients on what services we can provide as a profession and we do this already. For example, we may explain that we are able to digitally capture the back of the eye and this provides a tool to examine the retina in detail. Another example is we may discuss that contact lenses are suitable for a myopic delivery driver who loves to play football.

    Of course, once these services are being taken up, then patients themselves quickly spread the word through recommendation to friends and family which I have seen first hand with my own practice. But the messages that are being sent out in various media are clearly big drivers of this awareness too.

  • How will optometrists within Specsavers be trained to deliver these services? Will there be extra training courses?
  • Specsavers have already devoted a considerable amount of resources for both online training material and local practical skills sessions all over the UK, together with training through professional events such as the professional advancement conference. It has also been recognised that this is an ongoing project which I can see will become as familiar to us as CET already is.

  • What changes to enhanced optical services do you plan to see in the year ahead?
  • A shift of awareness firstly in the profession, whereby individual optometrists and practices appreciate that this is the future of what we will do, followed by the public increasing its understanding that high street opticians are not simply about spectacles.

  • Will we see a rise of independent opticians following the same course of action?
  • Traditionally, many independent practices have been offering their own types of EOS for some time. With Specsavers’ involvement, I can see it as a wake-up call for those that are not. Ultimately it would be great for all practices and clinicians to champion this cause and truly show what a vital part of primary care optometrists can become.

  • How would you respond to scepticism that areas with the most at-risk patients often have access to fewer optometry practices?
  • This has been a well proven issue for some time in certain areas and one which I wrangled with when looking to set up my own practice. EOS ties in perfectly with this problem by remunerating optometrists for clinical services and not simply by selling products, resulting in practices reconsidering potential locations.

  • Should optometrists consider gaining higher qualifications in order to take on more enhanced services in the future?
  • I am a huge advocate of higher qualifications as they give us validated inter-professional standards to achieve to demonstrate our capability. But when you look at our core general optical council competencies, much of the groundwork for EOS is already there but it’s the lack of exposure to eye conditions which dilutes our skill in managing these patients. By revitalising our clinical skills, many additional services can be offered without the need for higher qualifications.

    This interview first appeared on opticianonline.net

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