Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) welcomes CORU
Optometry in Ireland had been regulated since 1956 – even before the UK. The Opticians Act created the Opticians Board as regulator and had the benefit at the time of regulating dispensing and sale of spectacles. On the other hand, the Act restricted, in a very narrow way, the scope of practice of optometrists, preventing diagnosis and any kind of treatment. As the decades rolled on and the profession evolved into healthcare, with the education base to support it, the restrictions of the Act became an enormous barrier to professional progress or to replicate international norms in Ireland.
The Government announced its intention in late 2008 to transfer the functions of the Opticians Board to the Health & Social Care Professions Council (known now as CORU). Clearly this would mean practising in a new legislative environment. The AOI participated fully in the extended period of consultation that followed. Our key goals were ensuring that the restrictions on scope of practice were removed and that the regulation of dispensing continued. In both of these we were successful, despite opposition from some quarters.
The transition to CORU required enactment of primary legislation to enable it. This occurred between September and December 2014 with the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill where, again, the Association had to be vigilant and to deal with several attempted amendments. The Bill was signed by the Irish President in mid December.
From 1st November 2015 optometrists will be regulated under CORU. They will be able to practice according to their “knowledge, skills, competence and experience” in line with other similar healthcare professionals. It enables the AOI to negotiate with public bodies to provide services that reflect our members’ skills and abilities - negotiations that were previously extremely curtailed.
CORU registrants will have to abide by their profession’s Code of Professional Conduct & Ethics and may face fitness to practice complaints if they fail to meet its standards. Supporting members in the fitness to practice environment will be a new function of the Association as the previous legislation had little to say in this area and few cases arose.
Under CORU Continuing Professional Development will become a statutory requirement. Approximately 60 hours of CPD will be the standard for a two-year cycle. Registrants will have to retain their own CPD records and may be subject to a random audit at the end of the period. The AOI will be supporting members with provision of CPD events and an archiving facility on our website. The first period will commence on 1st April 2017.
Our profession now looks forward to the new era. Nothing will change overnight but optometrists will have the opportunity to expand their practice activities into new services, provided they can demonstrate their competence to do so. The Association is delighted to have been able to steer the process in the right direction and will be at the forefront in leading the way forward.