The clocks are ticking, and the optometry profession has just a couple of years to get its act together, or it risks being swept away, Doug Perkins will tell delegates at Optrafair this weekend.

The co-founder of Specsavers, who has been an optometrist for almost 50 years, will talk about the disruptive change facing optometry today – a potent cocktail of technological advances, demographic change and changes in consumer behaviour and financial pressures in the NHS.

He will focus on the opportunity for optometry to provide full-scope primary care throughout the UK, which will be more accessible for patients and also offer them better continuity of care.

But he will warn that if the optical profession doesn’t step up to the challenges, ophthalmologists and medical groups are standing by ready to take advantage of community eyecare, and the risk is that they will be looked on favourably by the medically-oriented CCGs (clinical commissioning groups).

Doug will say that optometry education needs to change. Clinical development and experience needs to be upgraded and ‘a review of higher education cannot come soon enough’. All optometry graduates should be MECS (minor eye care conditions) accredited. More English universities need to offer post-grad support similar to that offered by WOPEC (the Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre). A therapeutical qualification should become mandatory within the next five years.

And he will also call on the leaders of the optical profession and all optical groups to work together to make enhanced optical services their number one aspiration. He will end by highlighting the GOC’s own evidence that it is not working currently, with 54% of people saying they would visit a GP if they had an eye problem and only 19% saying they would visit an optician.

‘If we are still in this position in two years’ time, we will have failed.’

Doug Perkins’ speech, The future of optics, is in the main theatre at Optrafair on Saturday 9 April from 14.30 to 14.50.

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