Specsavers, RANZCO and Glaucoma Australia have presented a collaborative front in Canberra while testing the eyes of ministers, shadow ministers and MPs for glaucoma.

The organisations came together on 12 September 2017 at Parliament House for a jointly organised Glaucoma Testing Day. A total of 27 MPs and senators, plus a number of Parliamentary staffers, underwent a series of eye examinations and were introduced to equipment including the Tonoref III, the 3D OCT-1 Maestro, a slit lamp, and a Humphrey Matrix visual field analyser.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King participated in the initiative, among others. A number of conditions were detected, serving as an effective reminder of the importance of regular eye exams.

Specsavers Australia & New Zealand (ANZ) was represented by Rajan Khosla, Optometry Director at Specsavers Woden in ACT, as well as Head of Optometry Dr Ben Ashby and Director of Communications Charles Hornor. Glaucoma Australia National Executive Officer Geoff Pollard and a number of ophthalmologists representing RANZCO were also present.

In addition to raising awareness of glaucoma, the initiative provided a strong demonstration of the benefits of close collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology. The parliamentarians heard about the glaucoma patient pathway that RANZCO had developed and to which Specsavers, along with other optometrists, had contributed. Details on how the pathway was being implemented, as well as how it was impacting referral and diagnosis rates, were shared with those in attendance.

“Over the past few years, various government agencies and workforce studies have noted that optometry and ophthalmology need to work more closely together, not just to satisfy patient demand but also to ensure duplication of tasks is reduced,” Ben explained.

“Our work with RANZCO is delivering on that, and the patient pathway for glaucoma is a classic example of effective division of responsibility between optometrists and ophthalmologists. The Parliamentary Glaucoma Testing Day also showed how far we have come, with RANZCO, Glaucoma Australia and Specsavers demonstrating what collaboration means in practice.”

Minister Hunt praised the collaborative efforts of the ophthalmology and optometry sectors to deliver the most effective and efficient eye care possible, making specific mention of the Specsavers / RANZCO collaboration.

Specsavers’ plan to introduce an OCT into every Australian store over the next three years was also conveyed to the MPs. They were told of how the rollout was going to facilitate the world’s largest ‘every-patient’ glaucoma screening program, and how the resulting data would likely provide new insights into the disease and its prevalence in Australia.

“It’s all about getting the best possible patient outcomes,” Charles stated. “We’ll be able to share data that’s never been seen before and that makes a big difference. If you can provide evidence of outcomes to government, that’s got to be helpful.”

Minister Hunt later went on to stress the importance of addressing eye health inequalities in indigenous communities, and called upon RANZCO to develop a national plan to eradicate avoidable blindness, including treatable eye diseases such as glaucoma, in those communities.