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Optometrists are trained professionals who examine eyes, test sight, give advice on visual problems, and prescribe and dispense glasses or contact lenses. They also recommend other treatments or visual aids where appropriate.

Optometrists are trained to recognise eye diseases, referring such cases to other specialists as necessary, and can also use or supply various eye drugs.

Optometrists study at university for at least three years and participate in a full year of training and supervision, called the pre-registration year, before qualifying. Once qualified, they have the opportunity to develop their interests in specialist aspects of practice such as contact lenses, eye treatment, low vision, children’s vision and sports vision.

All optometrists practising in the UK must be registered with the General Optical Council, the profession’s regulatory body, and are listed in the Opticians Register.

When choosing an optometrist, look out for the letters FCOptom or MCOptom after his or her name. It means that optometrist is a Fellow or member of the College and adheres to high standards of clinical practice. There are currently around 10,400 registered optometrists in the UK.

Optometrists who have taken higher qualifications can also have letters after their name. The letters as listed in the table below show which subject they have studied and which level they have achieved .

 

QUALIFICATION AFFIX

Professional Higher Certificate in Contact Lens Practice

 

Higher Cert CL

Professional Diploma in Contact Lens Practice

 

Dip CL

Professional Certificate in Glaucoma

 

Prof Cert Glauc

Professional Higher Certificate in Glaucoma

 

Higher Cert Glauc

Professional Diploma in Glaucoma

 

Dip Glauc

Professional Certificate in Low Vision

 

Prof Cert LV

Professional Higher Certificate in Low Vision

 

Higher Cert LV

Professional Diploma in Low Vision

 

Dip LV

Professional Certificate in Medical Retina

 

Prof Cert Med Ret

Professional Higher Certificate in Medical Retina

 

Higher Cert Med Ret

Professional Diploma in Medical Retina

 

Dip Med Ret

Optometrists can also train to perform extra duties and will then have these letters after their name:

DipTP(AS) – Diploma in Therapeutics  (Additional Supply) Optometrists with the Additional Supply specialty are qualified to write orders for, and supply in an emergency, a range of drugs in addition to those which can be ordered or supplied by a normal optometrist.
DipTP(SP) – Diploma in Therapeutics (Supplementary Prescribing) Optometrists with the Supplementary Prescribing specialty are qualified to manage a patient’s clinical condition and prescribe medicines using a plan set up with an independent prescriber, such as a GP or ophthalmologist or qualified optometrist.

DipTP(IP)  – Diploma in Therapeutics (Independent Prescribing) Optometrists with the Independent Prescribing speciality will take responsibility for the clinical assessment of a patient, establish a diagnosis and determine the clinical management required, including prescribing where necessary.

 

‘Optometrist’ has been the preferred term in the UK since 1987. An older name for optometrist that you may sometimes see on a qualification certificate, practice sign or door plate is ‘Ophthalmic Optician’. Don’t worry, it means the same thing. Some long-qualified practitioners also use the older forms of letters after their name such as FBOA or FSMC. You can be confident that any who do so are also Fellows of the College.

 

For further information on eye health professions