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Alternative Pathways to Primary Care Report

Optometry Scotland has welcomed a recent report which recognises the important role optometrists can play in reducing pressure on GPs.

Earlier this year the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee launched an in-depth consultation into how patients access primary care in Scotland.

It looked at the various sources of healthcare that exist beyond GPs through other practitioners and support – exploring levels of awareness, effectiveness of signposting between services, use of self-referrals, potential for greater use of alternative pathways, prevalence of self-referrals, and the extent to which patients are using information sources such as helplines and websites.

Optometry Scotland’s chair Julie Mosgrove was among a number of experts who provided input during the extensive enquiry, which recently concluded after several months of research.

She said: “We were proud to be called upon to provide valuable insights into our sector, looking at what’s working well and where there is potential to further enhance community optometry.

“In particularly we stressed that the greatest limitation on our sector’s ability to provide an increased role as an alternative pathway to healthcare is funding. With more, we could do even more to ease pressure on general practice. We also highlighted the fact there are some 400 Independent Prescribers, and as more optometrists become qualified prescribers, the burden on GPs will be reduced further.

“The Committee has since reported that it was ‘encouraged’ to hear of optometrists’ potential to offer a wider range of services such as at-home services and diagnostic treatment services and highlighted Grampian as an example of best practice in this area.  In conclusion, the Committee has called on the Scottish Government to ‘assess whether optometry can be funded to fulfil this potential’ which is a welcome move.”

In her evidence provided to the Committee, Julie highlighted early identification of diabetes as a key area where optometrists can add value to the preventative agenda. She also noted the well-documented benefits of addressing visual impairment on falls prevention, dementia and other mental illness.

Workforce capacity was also explored. While OS highlighted that Scotland has a good network of optometry services across Scotland including rural areas, the Committee also noted that the University of Highlands and Islands has joined Glasgow Caledonian University in offering an optometry course with the aim of alleviating workforce capacity issues, particularly in remote and rural areas.

The full report can be viewed here.

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