A complaint about an extended scope of practice for New Zealand optometrists – made by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) – has been rejected.
The decisions will mean specially qualified NZ optometrists will be permitted to perform two types of simple laser surgery. Both surgeries are considered low risk and minor surgeries.
ODOB has described the decision as ‘an important outcome for optometry practice in New Zealand’
The New Zealand Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board (ODOB) had developed the scope of practice over two years.
RANZCO complained to the RRC earlier this year about the specialist scope of practice and qualification, claiming the ODOB’s decision was an “unusual” use of its powers under the relevant legislation, and that it didn’t comply with consultation requirements.
RANZCO also raised concerns about compromised patient safety and optometrists’ diagnostic skills and decision-making options for intervention.
RANZCO’s arguments were rejected by the New Zealand Regulations Review Committee (RRC), meaning the previously gazetted specialist scope and qualification remains valid and legal.
The ODOB has described the decision as “an important outcome for optometry practice in New Zealand”.
ODOB Chair Kristine Hammond is quoted by NZ online news service Voxy as saying, “While RANZCO has New Zealand in its name, there is not one staff member working in this country and until October 2022 (probably following our submissions during this process), has not had one Kiwi on its Executive Board of Directors.”
She says the practice scope change was initially suggested and developed by NZ hospital-based ophthalmologists.
Mrs Hammond said ODOB developed the new scope because people were often waiting 12 weeks or longer for this specific type of eye surgery under the old system.
“This unnecessarily increased the risk of further damage and preventable vision loss, but now an optometrist can easily and safely perform it earlier, and at a fraction of the cost to the public health system.
“A similar system has been working in the UK for over six years without a single complaint,” she said.
The RRC concluded that the ODOB had acted within its powers and had consulted sufficiently with RANZCO on the proposed decisions. On the question of patient safety, the RRC commented that it was “not clear on the evidence” that patient safety is compromised and that the ODOB had considered patient safety when making its decision.
‘RANZCO complaint not upheld’ at www.voxy.co.nz/national/5/411210 and www.nzoptics.co.nz/articles/archive/ranzco-complaint-not-upheld/