Optometrists seeking prescribing rights

Want to take pressure off GPs in COVID-19 crisis
  • Deborah Condon

Optometrists are seeking the right to prescribe antibiotic eye drops, as part of COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency legislation.

Currently, antibiotic eye drops can only be prescribed by GPs, however, they are overrun due to the COVID-19 crisis.

According to the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI), optometrists should be granted prescribing rights as they are "available and suitably qualified to assist", and such a move would take some of the pressure off GPs.

In a letter to the HSE and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the AOI insisted that optometrists "can do more to relieve pressure on both primary and secondary care for patients in the community".

"There are a number of conditions where an optometrist completes an examination and makes a diagnosis, but must then refer the patient back to the GP for their prescription. This includes widely used topical antibiotics for conjunctivitis, blepharitis and removal of corneal foreign bodies. We are also now entering the hay fever period of the year.

"As part of emergency legislation to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the AOI recommends that optometrists be granted prescribing rights for certain medications to treat an identified range of eye conditions. All optometrists already have the necessary training completed to provide this," the letter stated.

It said that parallel to this, pharmacists should be able to claim remuneration for such prescriptions as normal under the Primary Care Reimbursement Service.

Meanwhile, the AOI reminded the public that optometrists are deemed an essential service, which can remain open during the current crisis. It advises anyone with eye care needs to phone their optometrist for information or advice on services, many of which remain available.

For example, people can call for contact lens supplies, which can be prepared for collection. Physical distancing is in place in all premises.

"In cases of emergencies, optometrists will be available to examine patients, while carefully following guidelines on sterilisation and the use of masks and gloves to prioritise patient safety," the AOI added.

 


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