Optometry Board of Australia - November 2018
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November 2018

Issue 15 - November 2018

Chair’s message

Ian BluntishWelcome to the November 2018 newsletter of the Optometry Board of Australia (the Board).

Have you read the Board’s revised Endorsement for scheduled medicines registration standard and Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines? These have been in effect since 10 September 2018 and all optometrists need to be familiar with them.

It’s also time to renew your registration by 30 November 2018. The quickest and easiest way to renew is online.

The Board held useful discussions in October 2018 with member organisations on the Optometry Regulatory Reference Group (ORRG). This included the availability of training and supervision skills for optometry courses and programs, and developments and innovations that could shape what the profession would look like in 10 years. Read the full report in the newsletter.

We thank and acknowledge the contributions of three members who have served their maximum terms with the Board: Garry Fitzpatrick, Jane Duffy OAM and Derek Fails. We wish them well for the future.

We also welcome the appointments of three new members, Judith Hannan, Carla Abbott and Stuart Aamodt. Their profiles will be available on the Board’s website shortly.

On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) CEO Martin Fletcher, Executive Directors, National Directors and officers in all directorates for their professional service and hard work in helping the Board achieve its regulatory objectives and for facilitating collaboration across all professions to ensure that public safety remains paramount.

All of us on the Board extend our best wishes to optometrists and our many internal and external stakeholders for a safe, healthy and community-spirited festive season. 

Ian Bluntish
Chair, Optometry Board of Australia

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Board news

Revised endorsement for scheduled medicines registration standard and guidelines take effect

The Optometry Board’s revised Endorsement for scheduled medicines registration standard (registration standard) and Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines (the guidelines) are now in effect as of 10 September 2018. Registered optometrists need to familiarise themselves with this guidance to ensure their practice meets the Board’s expectations.

The registration standard sets out the requirements that an optometrist must meet to be granted an endorsement. The related guidelines outline the Board’s expectations about the use of scheduled medicines by endorsed and non-endorsed optometrists. The guidelines apply to optometrists with general registration who use scheduled medicines for diagnostic purposes and to optometrists whose registration is endorsed for scheduled medicines, who use scheduled medicines for the purposes of the practice of optometry.

See Appendix B of the guidelines for the revised Board-approved list of topical scheduled medicines that endorsed optometrists are qualified to prescribe for the purposes of the practice of optometry. The revised list is also published on the Board’s website. An FAQ has been developed to provide further information about the changes and the Board’s expectations.

The registration standard and guidelines have been updated as a result of a scheduled review, following wide-ranging public consultation in 2017. The COAG Health Council (the Ministerial Council) approved the revised registration standard and guidelines on 31 May 2018. The Ministerial Council approval letter is on the Board’s website. A transition period in effect from June has now ended.

If you are a registered optometrist with a scheduled medicines endorsement you must also be familiar and comply with the current legislative requirements in the jurisdictions in which you practise.

For more information

The registration standard, guidelines and FAQ are available on the Board’s Endorsement for scheduled medicines webpage.

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Updated fact sheet on limited registration for postgraduate training and/or supervised practice

The Board has published an updated fact sheet to provide greater clarity for applicants seeking limited registration for postgraduate training and/or supervised practice.

To practise as an optometrist in Australia, all practitioners need to apply for and be registered with the Board. This registration standard applies to overseas trained optometrists and other eligible optometrists applying for limited registration for postgraduate training or supervised practice, or renewal of limited registration for postgraduate training or supervised practice.

The updated fact sheet helps applicants, limited registrants and their employers to understand the requirements of the registration standard.

For more information

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Annual meeting of the Optometry Regulatory Reference Group (ORRG)

The Board convened the annual meeting of the Optometry Regulatory Reference Group (ORRG) on 8 October 2018. The group is a discussion forum for matters relating to the registration of optometrists and the accreditation of optometry programs under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). ORRG also helps foster communication and understanding of the different regulatory and accreditation issues in Australia and New Zealand.

The meeting was chaired by Board Chair Ian Bluntish. Participants at this year’s ORRG comprised representatives of the following organisations:

  • Optometry Board of Australia
  • Optometry Australia
  • Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board of New Zealand
  • New Zealand Association of Optometrists
  • Australian College of Optometry
  • Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand
  • The Schools of Optometry and Vision Sciences from the:
    • University of New South Wales
    • University of Melbourne
    • Deakin University
    • Flinders University
    • Queensland University of Technology
    • University of Auckland, and
    • University of Canberra.

The Board extends its gratitude and thanks to ABSTARR Consulting CEO Professor Greg Phillips. Greg is from Waanyi and Jaru Aboriginal Australian Peoples. He is also co-author of the National Health Workforce Strategy. Greg kindly offered his time to present on cultural safety and unconscious bias in the health system.

We also appreciate and thank Mitchell Anjou AM, Academic Specialist in Indigenous Eye Health and Senior Research Fellow, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, for his presentation on optometry’s service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health. This included regulatory considerations for closing the gap for vision loss.

Participants provided updated reports on important activities carried out by the organisations over the past 12 months.

General issues were discussed such as:

  • The availability of highly trained teaching staff to fill high level positions in Schools of Optometry and Vision Sciences, including teaching skills for postgraduate students.
  • The availability of supervisors for optometry programs for clinical placements training, and sustainability issues and future flexible options that are being explored by Schools of Optometry and Vision Sciences to improve the clinical training experience.
  • Encouraging more students to participate in the rural workforce.

ORRG participants also discussed what the profession could look like in 10 years. We considered developments in relation to regulation and professional education including:

  • advances in technology including remote service provision
  • shared care using primary, secondary and tertiary service providers in multi-profession practices and clinics
  • possible changes in scopes of practice and the need to teach core capabilities and increase the availability of bridging courses
  • team-based care and related competency models for protecting the public
  • the future direction of continuing professional development encouraging practitioners to be life-long learners
  • future directions of micro-credentials, such as short, low-cost online courses, in tertiary education
  • digital literacy skills to enable better researchers as a key education outcome, as examination and diagnosis become more digitised, and communication skills become even more important for health practitioners
  • international scope of practice changes, especially in the United States of America with changes likely to be driven by population needs analysis, including the evolution of sub-specialties within optometry
  • a report on Optometrist Australia’s futures workshop held in early September 2018, which is expected to be published later in the year, and
  • local and international telemedicine, with a need for professional liability and indemnity issues to be addressed by insurers, while noting potential benefits for remote and rural patients.

Overall, the Board is pleased that discussion centred on matters affecting the profession and the public, for future consideration at ORRG meetings and focus groups.

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Board farewells three members and welcomes successors

At its September meeting the Board farewelled three valued members who have served on the Board for the maximum three terms or nine years each. The three members were:

  • Jane Duffy OAM (Victoria) – practitioner member and Chair of the Board’s Scheduled Medicines Advisory Committee
  • Garry Fitzpatrick (Western Australia) – practitioner member, Chair of the Board’s Finance and Risk Committee and member of the Board’s Policy and Education Committee, and
  • Derek Fails (New South Wales) − practitioner member, member of the Board’s Finance and Risk Committee and member of the Board’s Policy and Education Committee.

We thanked our departing members noting our appreciation for their tireless energy and commitment to achieving the Board’s regulatory objectives. We noted their contributions to the success of our many activities and projects, and wished them the very best for the future and in their continued contributions to the profession and the Australian community.

We extend a warm welcome to three newly appointed practitioner members, Judith Hannan (New South Wales), Carla Abbott (Victoria) and Stuart Aamodt (Western Australia). Their profiles will be uploaded on the Board’s website shortly.  

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Renew your registration by 30 November

Optometrists have until 30 November 2018 to renew their registration on time. The quickest and easiest way to renew is online.

If your application is received on time or during the following one-month late period, you can continue practising while your application is processed. Applications received in December will incur a late payment fee in addition to the annual renewal fee.

If you do not apply to renew your registration by 31 December 2018 you will have lapsed registration. You will be removed from the national register and will not be able to practise in Australia.

More information about registration renewal is available on the Board’s website.

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Latest registration statistics released

The Board released its latest quarterly registration statistics in November, for the period 1 July to 30 September 2018. Registrant numbers have increased from 5,532 as of the June report, to 5,595. The number of registrants with endorsements for scheduled medicines has increased from 3,059 to 3,151, bringing the percentage of general registrants with endorsements to 58.2 per cent.

Registration type by principal place of practice

Registration Type Registration Sub-type ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA No PPP Total
General 83 1,819 33 1,081 318 100 1,462 419 98 5,413
Limited Postgraduate training or supervised practice 1 3 1 1 1 4 1 12
Teaching or research 2 2
Non-practising 3 45 18 1 1 33 4 63 168
Total 87 1,869 33 1,100 320 101 1,496 427 162 5,595

*PPP: principal place of practice

Endorsements by principal place of practice

Registration Type Registration Sub-type ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA No PPP Total
Scheduled medicines 47 827 24  595 207  71 1,045 217  26 3,059
% of general registrants who are endorsed 56.6% 45.7% 75.0% 55.4% 66.1% 75.5% 73.0% 51.9% 26.8% 57.2%

Only optometrists holding general registration are eligible to hold the scheduled medicines endorsement.

For more information, visit the Board’s Statistics page.

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National Scheme news

AHPRA to conduct pilot audit of advertising compliance in early 2019

A pilot audit to check health practitioner compliance with advertising requirements will be conducted by AHPRA in early 2019.

The pilot audit has been modelled on the well-established approach to auditing compliance with core registration standards and involves adding an extra declaration about advertising compliance for two professions when applying for renewal of registration in 2018. (The National Law1 enables a National Board to require any other reasonable information2 to be included with a renewal application.)

The National Boards for chiropractic and dental are taking part in the pilot audit.

When applying to renew their registration, chiropractors and dental practitioners will be required to complete a declaration about their advertising compliance. The pilot audit will not delay a decision on the application for renewal.

Random audits of advertising compliance will advance a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements and facilitate compliance by all registered health practitioners who advertise their services.

Regulatory Operations Executive Director Kym Ayscough said the audit for advertising compliance would provide opportunities to extend the current action under the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy launched in April 2017.

‘This pilot audit will potentially improve compliance with advertising obligations across the entire registrant population, not just those who have had an advertising complaint,’ Ms Ayscough said.

‘It will also provide opportunites to become more proactive in preventing non-compliant advertising by registered health practitioners.’

The audit will be carried out by AHPRA’s Advertising Compliance Team from January 2019 and will involve a random sample of chiropractors and dental practitioners who renewed their registration in 2018.

‘One of the audit’s main objectives is to analyse the rate of advertising compliance for those practitioners who advertise and who have not been the subject of an advertising complaint in the past 12 months,’ Ms Ayscough said.

Other objectives of the audit are:

  • to inform the evaluation of the compliance and enforcement strategy
  • establish the rate of advertising compliance within the professions, and
  • address any non-compliance with advertising obligations identified during the audit.

A pilot audit report addressing the above objectives and including data analysis and recommendations will be prepared for National Boards to consider the pilot outcomes and implications for future compliance work.

For information about your advertising obligations see AHPRA’s advertising resources page.

1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory.

2 Section 107(4)(e) of the National Law.

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New results format for OET English language test; registration standards remain unchanged

AHPRA and the Board have started accepting an updated format of test results for the Occupational English Test (OET).

All National Boards have a registration standard for English language skills, which require applicants for initial registration to demonstrate English language skills to be suitable for registration. The OET is one of the English language skills tests accepted by the Board.

The English language level being tested by OET remains the same. Test takers are not being measured differently, with the only change being the way the OET scores are described. As such, the National Boards’ English language skills registration standards referring to OET have not changed. Rather, updates have been made to internal systems and relevant application forms to accommodate and reflect the new numerical scale. You can read more in the news item.

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Selectively editing reviews or testimonials may break the law

AHPRA has issued more guidance for advertisers to make it clearer that selectively editing reviews is not acceptable.

Under the National Law, testimonials about clinical care are not permitted, but reviews about non-clinical aspects of care are allowed.

In a recent case, an advertiser removed all negative comments from patients’ reviews. This selective editing changed the meaning of the reviews and had the potential to mislead the public. AHPRA’s new guidance makes it clear this is not acceptable and outlines the rules about editing or moderating reviews. It is misleading to:

  • edit a review that is negative to make it positive, as this falsely presents the feedback
  • edit a review that has a mix of negative and positive comments so that the published review only has positive comments, as this falsely implies that the reviewer only had positive feedback, or
  • edit a review so that it no longer accurately reflects all the reviewer’s feedback and presents an inaccurate or false impression of the reviewer’s views.

Reviews influence consumers’ healthcare choices so advertisers must make sure reviews are genuine and not misleading.

The way advertisers moderate and publish reviews must comply with the National Law and the Australian Consumer Law.

The updated testimonial tool is available in the Advertising resources section on the AHPRA website.

For more information, access the Advertising resources on the AHPRA website.

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Closing the gap by 2031: a shared commitment to improving Indigenous health outcomes

The National Scheme has made a landmark commitment to helping achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031.

Nearly 40 health organisations have signed the National Scheme Statement of Intent, including leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, AHPRA, all National Boards, all accreditation authorities and other entities.

AHPRA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group is leading this work, in close partnership with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and experts.

The group shares a commitment to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have access to health services that are culturally safe and free from racism so that they can enjoy a healthy life,

To help achieve this, the group is focusing on:

  • a culturally safe health workforce supported by nationally consistent standards, codes and guidelines across all professions in the National Scheme
  • using our leadership and influence to achieve reciprocal goals
  • increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ participation in the registered health workforce
  • greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to culturally safe services of health professions regulated under the National Scheme, and
  • increased participation across all levels of the National Scheme.

More information is available in the news item, the Statement of Intent and AHPRA’s Reconciliation Action Plan

Optometry Board - Associate Professor Gregory Phillips and Dr Joanna Flynn at the Statement of Intent launch
Photo: Associate Professor Gregory Phillips and Dr Joanna Flynn, co-chairs of AHPRA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group, at the Statement of Intent launch.


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Follow AHPRA on social media

Connect with AHPRA on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to receive information about important topics for your profession and participate in the discussion.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Board website for registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQ.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9275 9009 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Ian Bluntish, Chair, Optometry Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 21/10/2021