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William Stockdale, Contact Lens Optician, FODO member and Optometry Northern Ireland past chair

William Stockdale, Contact Lens Optician, FODO member and Optometry Northern Ireland past chair [Photo]

Since establishing an independent practice in Northern Ireland over 20 years ago, I have played an active role in primary eye care, including serving as a FODO director and chair of Optometry Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, 95% of our population lives within five miles of a primary eye care practice. We live and work in local communities and see the important of our sight testing service. It helps children through education, keeps people in work and helps prevent falls in older people; and, of course, helps us detect eye health issues which in turn helps avoid preventable sight loss.

It is an amazing public and population health achievement that the high standard of care the population can access without a wait is universal. Like so many colleagues, we are immensely proud of this core primary eye care service and all that it continues to deliver for people in Northern Ireland.

At the heart of our success however has been responding to patient needs, and these have changed over time and that change accelerated during the pandemic.

We know for example that people want to access care closer to home and would like to have the option of visiting a primary eye care practice rather than having to travel to hospital where clinically appropriate.

We also know there are major advantages to new models of primary eye care. For example, we have the Northern Ireland Primary Eyecare Assessment and Referral Service (NI PEARS), which deals with urgent eye problems and reduces pressure on GP and hospital colleagues. We also have comprehensive pre and post cataract surgery capability which will help ophthalmology make best use of their expertise and limited capacity, once the hardware in hospitals has been updated.

In recent years we have also added an ocular hypertensions and glaucoma service, which includes enhanced case-finding, monitoring and treatment for OHT patients, under an ECHO programme. We continue to work collaboratively with system colleagues to build on our successes, including interconnectivity and developing enhanced services.

We all share a common goal, which is to prevent avoidable sight loss and meet our population's eye health and vision needs close to home. As a FODO member we are part of a community of eye care providers committed to making change happen for patients and for the right reasons.

04 May 2023

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