Each year we randomly audit practitioners to check their compliance with a range of registration standards. Practitioners who have not quite met the registration standard, but are able to provide evidence of achieving full compliance during the audit period, are managed through education to achieve full compliance.
The last quarter of 2019/20 has been a challenging time for registered optometrists in the face of restrictions arising from COVID-19. The Optometry Board of Australia worked with other National Boards and Ahpra to support health practitioners during the pandemic. Regulatory approaches were modified to accommodate exceptional circumstances. The Board also encouraged practitioners to become familiar with the revised CPD registration standard.
The impact of the pandemic gave rise to issues such as the completion of clinical placements by final-year students. The Board is grateful for the alternative teaching strategies and equivalent learning experiences deployed by optometry schools at universities and the collaborative assessments provided by the Board’s accreditation body, Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ).
We encouraged practitioners to continue to complete available continuing professional development (CPD) while recognising the difficulty in meeting CPD requirements as a result of withdrawn or denied leave requests, conference cancellations and the reprioritisation necessary to meet workforce needs. The Board issued an assurance that it will not take action if practitioners cannot meet the CPD registration standard due to the pandemic.
The CPD registration standard requires practitioners to complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training every three years. However, these courses have been postponed by private providers as the CPR component has to be done in person. The Board asked that this training be completed when there is no longer an unnecessary risk involved.
The Board also issued a recommendation that optometry practices implement a system of phone triage for their patients, to prioritise patients requiring urgent eye and vision care rather than routine examinations.
On 30 June, the Ministerial Council approved the Board’s revised Continuing professional development registration standard, which will come into effect on 1 December 2020.
A longer lead-up time was approved so that optometrists have 18 months to adjust to the new requirements, which move from a points system to hours. We published advance copies of the registration standard and supporting documents on the Board’s website.
The revised registration standard allows greater flexibility in choices of learning activities. We published an updated fact sheet to provide greater clarity for applicants seeking limited registration for postgraduate training and/or supervised practice.
In response to an identified need by practitioners who would like to plan a lengthy break from practice, we published return-to-practice explanatory materials.
The Board convened the annual meeting of the Optometry Regulatory Reference Group in October.
We welcomed Mr Andrew Brown, Queensland Health Ombudsman, and the Chair of the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board New Zealand (ODOB NZ) at our February Board meeting.
The Board and members of its committees participated in the National Scheme’s Combined Meeting in February, nearly a decade after the scheme’s establishment.
The Board has approved its accreditation agreement’s second year of funding with OCANZ. The agreement’s contemporary framework addresses accreditation issues such as cultural safety, safety and quality and reducing regulatory burden, and aims to strengthen accountability and transparency of accreditation.
On the Board’s recommendation, Ahpra, as the contracting entity, entered into a one-year contract extension with Optometry Australia for the provision of CPD accreditation services for a final term until 30 November 2020. From 1 December 2020, the revised CPD registration standard will start and CPD courses will no longer be accredited by the Board.
The Board supports the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020-2025 released in early 2020.
The Board commissioned Ahpra to conduct a review of complaints during 2010–17 about optometrists and in 2019 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 Board also released an information guide to help the public know what to expect when visiting a registered optometrist.
Mr Ian Bluntish, Chair