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It seems amazing that 2013 is almost over—and what a year it has been for the profession! Based on the most recent Medicare data, the delivery of primary eye health and vision care services reached record numbers in the Australian community.

By June 2013, according to the most recent AHPRA data, there were 4,513 practising optometrists in Australia. By the end of 2014, with the graduation of students from Flinders University, and by mid-2015 with the first graduates from Deakin completing their course, our profession will have the largest number of graduates than ever before.

The association’s workforce studies, which are underway and due for publication during 2014, will make an important contribution to the debate about workforce levels and the continuing provision of primary eye health and ­vision care.

As 2013 draws to a close, the profession can be proud of the delivery of these primary eye health and vision care services provided all over Australia.

On a number of occasions this year, the association has supported changes to the regulatory and policy settings that affect your practice and the care you can provide to your patients.

We have supported these changes as they are safe, sensible and necessary, given increasing demand for eye health and vision care with the ageing of the population and increasing levels of chronic disease.

Changes such as those in the glaucoma guidelines don’t suddenly require a change of practice. They represent safe and sensible change envisaged by all jurisdictions when they enacted national registration. They recognise that optometrists who have undertaken additional training—which 12 months from now, will represent the new entry-level standard—have the equipment and experience, and can initiate treatment for glaucoma patients.

In late November, all health ministers approved new prescribing pathways for non-medical professions. The association collaborated on this project as our profession has been prescribing in many jurisdictions for decades and the positive results for patients are there to be seen.

To cap off November, the association attended the RANZCO congress at which I and optometrists Anna Morse, Dr Genevieve Napper and Mitchell Anjou gave presentations in two separate symposia on rural and regional, and indigenous eye care.

The common theme we spoke of was collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology for the benefit of patients, enhancing eye-care outcomes.

Next year is going to be another positive and challenging year for the profession.

We will see a market review of optometric services conducted by the Department of Health and an external adviser, to build an evidence base for the association’s request for sustainable fees with the removal of the fee cap. We achieved this together and I thank the many optometrists who took the opportunity to lobby their local Member of Parliament to talk about the need for sustainable fees and the removal of the fee cap.

The association and its state Divisions are privileged to continue to provide services, programs and support to more than 90 per cent of practising optometrists in Australia. With your membership and support the association has achieved so much for the profession and through you, for patients all over Australia.

Next year will see the continuation of services and programs in the areas essential to your practice of optometry.

  • Programs to support your registration: professional indemnity insurance and support services related to making your registration as a practising optometrist as easy as possible through improved CPD recording; and member-preferred CPD conferences in every state Division—a suite of seven OAA conferences shaped by optometrists for optometrists.
  • Practice information to support top-quality clinical services: a suite of additional easy to access practice notes supporting you in providing excellence in primary eye health and ­vision care.
  • Personalised and confidential advice in key ­areas of medico-legal matters, Medicare and PBS issues; IR and employment advice.
  • Communications keeping you connected: a suite of print and online publications and information; dynamic new website and social media.

The association will continue to support and advocate for fair and sensible laws and regulations to best position the profession to meet the growing eye health needs in Australia.

The market review is an exciting opportunity for the profession to continue our dialogue with key decision-makers to showcase how important optometrists are to the delivery of primary eye health and vision care and the reduction in avoidable blindness in Australia.

Finally, as you ponder gifts for loved ones, think about Optometry Giving Sight, the association’s charity of choice. It has the Gift of Vision options starting from only $30, which will provide five people with vision through eye examinations and glasses.

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