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Leaders of the Future - Optometry Tomorrow 2018 (UK Conference)

Over the past 10 years, Optometry has significantly changed as an industry. The emphasis on clinical ability and skills has been brought to the forefront and opticians, including ones you may see on tv, have fallen behind significantly. They are now considered entry-level opticians with old technology such as fundus photography (taking eye photos). In the coming years you will see many of these opticians, small or large, try to catch up with the rest of the industry as they introduce OCT laser eye scanning. This technology has been available for over 10 years in clinical practice which is a sign the industry is trying to improve their clinical ability and skillset. The general public need their optometrists to start making a difference to the monitoring of their eye health as well as providing advanced vision correction options such as orthokeratology, instead of being the place to go to their glasses every 2 years or so. There is so much more an optometrist can provide for his/her patient than an eye test.

The Optometry Tomorrow 2018 UK conference, on the 18-19th March 2018, was a fantastic event, with a broad spectrum of lectures and seminars. It was an ideal opportunity for optometrists across the country to learn and discuss the way forward for our industry. There was a big emphasis on therapies such as orthokeratology as well as developing clinical pathways for treatment and referrals.

My name is Chirag and I am a Partner Therapeutic Optometrist with independent prescribing and glaucoma specialities. This, in simple terms, means I can medically treat eye conditions much like your GP or hospital eye doctor. Along with my brother Manish, who is also an IP prescriber, I was asked by the prestigious College of Optometrists to give a lecture to a sold out group of 150 UK eye specialists on when clinicians should treat eye disease in primary care practice and when to make the decision to refer into hospital secondary care. The conditions we spoke about effectively treating in-house ranged from the very routine to the ones, (e.g. various conjunctivitis), which many optometrists would consider complex and out of their comfort zone to manage, (e.g. various corneal ulcers).

I am pleased our lecture was very well received and feedback from practitioners was great to hear, with most saying the lecture has given them the confidence to put their earned skills to good use.

With the NHS in decline, it seeks to move many secondary care services into primary care community services. Optometrists are extremely well placed to be able pick up this demand and, at Eye 2 Eye, we have proven it by running an NHS eye clinic 6 days a week, where we see any acute eye conditions that patients would normal take to their GP or A&E. Our APCOS service provides full NHS care via free appointments and medical treatment to all patients with a West Kent GP. We accept patients as walk-ins, referrals from all other opticians across West Kent, any West Kent GP, Maidstone A&E and NHS 111.

The lecture has urged many specialists, like ourselves, to set up similar services in their own areas across the country. As time goes on, there is no reason as to why these services shouldn't be available everywhere. It is the advancement of industries like ours which can help save the NHS. For every patient seen in the hospital eye service more than 2 can be seen in community practice. So, the next time you have ANY eye complaints, please visit your eye specialist first!

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