Optoms’ extended laser scope endures

The New Zealand Regulations Review Committee (RRC) rejected the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists’ (RANZCO) complaint about the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board’s (ODOB) specialist optometrist scope of practice – ophthalmic laser surgeries, and its associated prescribing qualification.


Allowing optometrists to perform some specific laser eye surgeries will see New Zealanders benefit from shorter waiting times, limiting the risk of further vision loss, said Kristine Hammond, ODOB chair. “It’s no secret that our healthcare system is overloaded and the Ministry of Health has expressly tasked allied health with helping where they can. With the Te Whatu Ora health system reforms, further changes to the distribution of workload will be required to reduce healthcare inequalities and improve the standard of care. This decision also means the public of Aotearoa and eyecare professionals can be confident that ODOB can safely expand the roles of optometrists and dispensing opticians to meet these demands.”


In July 2022 RANZCO complained to the RRC about the specialist scope of practice and qualification, asking that it be overturned on the basis that the ODOB’s decision was an “unusual” use of its powers under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, and that it didn’t comply with the Act’s consultation requirements. RANZCO also raised concerns about compromised patient safety and optometrists’ diagnostic skills and decision-making options for intervention.


Having heard from both parties, the RRC rejected RANZCO’s complaint in December 2022, concluding the ODOB had acted within its powers and consulted sufficiently with RANZCO on the proposed decisions. On the question of patient safety, the RRC said it was “not clear on the evidence” that patient safety is compromised and said the ODOB had considered patient safety when making its decision.


The ODOB is ready to receive optometrists’ applications to the new specialist scope of practice, said Hammond. The ODOB website has additional information on eligibility, training requirements, ongoing competency assurance requirements and application forms: www.odob.health.nz


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