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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 August 2007, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Eye experts 'to prescribe drugs'
Patients would no longer need to visit GPs for eye-related complaints
Eye specialists in England will be able to issue prescriptions on the high street under government plans.

Some optometrists are already able to write drug prescriptions, but still need them signed off by doctors.

But under the new powers, optometrists given extra training will be able to prescribe for conditions such as dry eye syndrome and conjunctivitis.

Ministers said it would make care more convenient for patients, but doctors warned it had to be properly monitored.

The move comes after nurses were given extra prescribing powers last year.

It was part of a drive to free up GPs to concentrate on other areas. But the extra powers for nurses has proved controversial with some experts saying they had a tendency to over-prescribe.

For patients, it should mean that they get quality care faster and more conveniently than ever before
Rosie Varley, chairman of the General Optical Council

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said optometrists would still refer patients to their GP if they suspected something like diabetes, which can cause other health-related problems.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo, said: "Enabling independent prescribing will not only allow them to make better use of their skills, but will also mean greater convenience for patients."


Rosie Varley, chairman of the General Optical Council, said: "The move reflects high levels of public confidence in optometrists and optical regulation.

"For patients, it should mean that they get quality care faster and more conveniently than ever before."

There are around 10,000 registered optometrists in the country, of whom some already have supplementary prescribing powers.

This allows them to write a prescription but they must get a GP or hospital doctor to sign it off.

Rhod Daniel, chairman of the British Medical Association's ophthalmic group committee, said it was a potential step forward and could help reduce non-sight threatening referrals to eye hospitals.

But he added: "Optometry prescribing will need to be properly monitored as the safety of the patient must always take precedence over convenience and economics."

Nurse drug prescribing extended
29 Apr 06 |  Health
Prescribing shake-up planned
16 Apr 02 |  Health

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