In light of the verdict in the case of Honey Rose, an optometrist convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, the College of Optometrists has issued the following statement:
The College of Optometrists wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the family of Vincent Barker. We understand that no outcome from these proceedings could bring any consolation to the family for their loss.
All optometrists practising in the UK must be registered with the General Optical Council (GOC), the profession’s regulatory body. All sight tests in the UK are regulated and have to meet a set standard to ensure they are capable of detecting disease, injury or abnormality in the eye. Optometrists play an important role safeguarding the nation’s eye health. The GOC sets standards for optometrists and the College of Optometrists, the professional body for optometry, supports the profession in meeting these standards. The College’s Guidance for professional practice outlines how optometrists should apply the GOC’s standards in practice. The College’s Guidance covers the following areas; how to conduct a routine eye exam, how to examine children, how to safely and correctly keep patient records and when and with what urgency an optometrist should refer a patient to a GP or the hospital eye service.
Optometrists are trained professionals whose first duty of care is the eye health of their patients. They examine eyes, test sight, give advice on visual problems, and prescribe and dispense glasses or contact lenses. They also recommend treatments when appropriate and can use or supply various eye drugs. Optometrists are trained to recognise eye disease and abnormality, including papilloedema, (swelling of the optic nerves) and to refer such cases to other specialists as necessary.
Papilloedema is a swelling of the optic disc (the area of the optic nerve that enters the eye). It is typically seen in both eyes and is most commonly due to increased intracranial pressure.
There are many possible causes of raised intracranial pressure. It is often accompanied by symptoms such as headaches, transient visual loss, double vision and sickness, although not always.
Papilloedema is a rare condition. However the most common cause, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, is increasing due to the rising prevalence of obesity. Although the condition is most common in women, it can affect children and adults of any age. When an optometrist detects papilloedema, they will normally make an emergency referral, which means the patient will be seen by an ophthalmologist within 24 hours. In most cases it can be treated, normally by a neurologist, with input from an ophthalmologist. Treatment will be directed at the underlying cause of the increased intracranial pressure.
At every eye examination an optometrist will assess the optic nerve, by looking at the back of the eye with a slit-lamp microscope or an ophthalmoscope. Increasingly, in addition to this, optometrists may use retinal cameras in to assess the back of the eye, including the optic nerve.