Optometrists (Ophthalmic Opticians) are professional clinicians responsible for many aspects of vision care. Optometrists undertake examinations of the eye for optical defects and correct defects using spectacles and contact lenses. They assess functional disorders of the eye and visual systems.
Optometrists are normally primary health-care specialists trained to examine the eyes for defects in sight, ocular diseases and problems related to general health. They are also trained to fit and supply optical appliances such as spectacles, contact lenses and low vision aids. Optometrists are responsible for detection, diagnosis and management of ocular disease and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system. They provide approximately 90% of primary eye care in the UK and the profession is responsible for 40% of ocular and ophthalmic referrals to the secondary care sector.
The profession is regulated by a statutory body, the General Optical Council (GOC) which has the general function of promoting high standards of professional education and conduct among optometrists under the Opticians Act 1989. The law states that, apart from registered medical practitioners, only a registered optometrist can test sight.
Registered optometrists examine the visual system to establish its state of health and to provide, if necessary, an optical correction to optimise visual performance. While the majority of optometrists work in private practice, some practise part-time or full-time in hospital eye departments while others are active in industry, government service, research and teaching.
Optometrists study at university for at least three years and participate in a full year of training and supervision, called the pre-registration year before being registered with the General Optical Council.
There are currently around 9,000 registered optometrists in the UK, about 400 of whom work either part time or full time in the Hospital Eye Service (HES).
Optometrists working in the HES provide secondary care to patients, usually in a hospital setting, including diagnostic refractions, medical contact lenses, Low Vision Aids and enhanced optometric services including glaucoma assessment and management, corneal assessment and management, eye casualty, post operative cataract assessment, joint orthoptic and optometric paediatric assessment and management and support for intra-vitreal injection services.
For more information on the role of Optometrists at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust click here