Creation and development of clinical management guidelines for optometrists

Changes to the General Optical Council’s Rules of Referral, which came into effect on 1 January 2000, had the effect of freeing optometrists from complete professional dependence upon ophthalmologists and general practitioners.

The changes opened the way for optometrists to become qualified to manage a number of common eye conditions. Though certain conditions applied, it was no longer obligatory for an optometrist to refer every case of injury or disease of the eye to a registered medical practitioner.

After years of discussion within optometry, ophthalmology and related professions, and following extensive public consultation, the principle of independent prescribing for optometrists was accepted by the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) at its meeting in June 2007 and announced by the Health Minister shortly afterwards.

Prof Martin Kendall, who had advised the CHM, stated: ‘Day to day practice would be supported by the existing clinical management guidelines for optometrists.’

It was therefore clearly envisaged, at the initiation of independent prescribing for optometrists, that the work of such independent prescribers would be informed and supported by Clinical Management Guidelines (CMG)s. Additionally, it soon became apparent that the CMGs were of potential use to all registered optometrists.

The current 59 CMGs are universally available on the College of Optometrists website where they are by far the most frequently accessed content. They are evidence based, peer reviewed and updated every two years. Recently, illustrations of clinical conditions have been added, as has cross-platform accessibility. New CMGs are added as the need arises.

Professor Roger Buckley