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The Optometry Board of Australia has confirmed that the updated guidelines for the diagnosis and management of glaucoma allow endorsed optometrists to assess patients, make an initial diagnosis and start treatment when that is in the patient’s best interests.

In a joint statement released today, the OBA and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency stated that they are pleased to have settled the longstanding legal matter with the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).

The OBA has also confirmed that optometrists must provide a referral to an ophthalmologist about glaucoma treatment, as required by the patient’s condition and within four months.

As a priority, the OBA and AHPRA will release updated Guidelines in December. The guidelines will reflect the principles set out in the agreed statement, and clarify the timelines for information exchange between treating practitioners (optometrists and ophthalmologists).

The OBA said in a Briefing Note released this afternoon that it is pleased with the way the case has been resolved. It will focus on communicating with endorsed optometrists about these issues and guide optometrists to provide high quality care to their patients.

The ASO and RANZCO met with the OBA on 24 November. The meeting took place at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, seven days before the case was scheduled to be heard in the Queensland Supreme Court.

‘An out-of-court settlement has been reached in relation to the case brought against the OBA on its Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines, principally on glaucoma management,’ Optometry Australia CEO Genevieve Quilty said.

‘A joint statement released by the parties involved indicates they all agree that modifying the guidelines is a constructive solution that protects patient safety and supports access to health services, without compromising standards of care,’ she said.

The details of the agreed modifications to the OBA Guidelines for the use of scheduled medicines are not yet available.

‘Optometry Australia wishes to advise that the current guidelines available on the OBA website remain in place until superseded by the new guidelines,’ Ms Quilty said.

‘Optometry Australia will work closely with the Optometry Board of Australia to ensure there is clear information to members of our profession following this settlement announced today. We will be working to clarify management and clinical responsibility pathways, and to ensure patient care is not interrupted as a result of misinformation provided by others following the release of the joint statement.’

Optometry Australia will provide further information when amended guidelines are issued in relation to referral and management pathways to support care of patients.

Background

ASO and RANZCO jointly launched legal action against the OBA in June 2013, challenging the validity of the OBA’s revised ‘Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines’ that came into effect in March 2013.

A hearing was scheduled in the Queensland Supreme Court for 4-8 August 2014 but was adjourned because the legal proceedings were estimated to take longer than scheduled. The case was rescheduled to commence on 1 December and conclude on 12 December 2014.

The court case will no longer take place.

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