Review confirms Australian optometrists providing safe and effective care

25 Sep 2019

A recent review of complaints about optometrists has confirmed that the vast majority of optometrists in Australia provide safe and effective care, with the profession drawing fewer complaints than the average for all regulated health professions.

The review was conducted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency on behalf of the Optometry Board of Australia. It assessed complaints about optometrists in Australia recorded from 1 July 2010 to 31 December 2017. The aim of the review was to help the Board understand the main issues regarding complaints about optometrists.

Between 1 July 2010 and 31 December 2017, there were 384 complaints about 338 optometrists in Australia. Over the same period, there were 6,047 registered optometrists, meaning 5.6 per cent of registered optometrists had one or more complaints about them during that period.

‘Overall the review reflects the genuine care optometrists put into providing a high-quality service for customers,’ Optometry Board of Australia Chair Ian Bluntish said.

Dissatisfaction with treatment for refractive error was the most common single issue identified by the review. While generally not the main issue, communication issues were an underlying theme for many complaints.

‘One thing the Board learned from the review is that optometrists need to be very careful in setting realistic expectations about clinical care, particularly around prescribing spectacles or contact lenses,’ Mr Bluntish said.

‘Although these are the simplest, safest and most cost-effective ways of correcting refractive error, there is a widespread belief that there is no period of adjustment to new corrective lenses, and many complainants felt that the dispensing optometrist could have been clearer in explaining that it may take a couple of weeks for their eyes to adjust to a new prescription.’

The onset of symptoms caused by retinal tears was another area where communication could be improved.

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Page reviewed 25/09/2019