Report: Opticians to aid France eye doctor shortage

Opticians could now do simple eye exams and prescribe glasses and lenses to customers

Opticians in France could soon be permitted to prescribe glasses and contact lenses independently, after an official watchdog found the public is experiencing significant delays for ophthalmologist appointments.

In a report published this week, the official French state watchdog La Cour des Comptes at Rue Cambon (Paris), found that many patients requiring corrective glasses or contact lenses were finding it very difficult to get a consultation with an ophthalmologist, even in an emergency.

Currently, opticians in France can only renew and tweak prescriptions written by an ophthalmologist initially, and cannot prescribe or take on new patients independently.

Yet, the availability of ophthalmologist services is very varied across the country, the report said. It added that the situation would also be worsened by the 20% drop in the number of specialists expected by 2030.

The report stated: “In many areas, patients are suffering from significant delays, even in an emergency, to get a consultation from an optician. Some are finding it to be impossible [to get treatment] if they are not already on the system.”

The report suggested that “widening the services” of other eye health professionals, such as opticians, could be one solution. This would also free up ophthalmologists’ time to focus on more serious eye conditions, and on patients who require surgery and other more serious intervention.

There are 35,718 opticians working in optician shops in France, the report said, compared to just 4,643 fully-trained ophthalmologists in clinics and hospitals.

It recommended that these professionals receive extra training - up to two years more - to enable them to offer simple consultations to customers who may not require the extra services of an ophthalmologist.

This could include prescriptions for glasses and lenses, eye tests, and the monitoring of certain eye conditions.

To prevent conflict of interest in shops, however, the court recommended that customers should not be able to receive glasses or lenses from the same place that gave them the initial prescription.

Opticians would also have a responsibility to refer customers to an ophthalmologist in the event that an eye condition “exceeded their field of competence”.

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