Christmas Newsletter

by | Dec 18, 2022 | General News

Welcome to the ONI Newsletter

Welcome back to the ONI newsletter, it’s a real privilege to be able to share with you some of what ONI has been up to in the last quarter. The committee have been busy working on your behalf for a GOS uplift, exploring DVA contract opportunity, negotiating OHT additional fees and helping shape the IP pilot to name but a few.

We are closely watching the new Wales contract unfold and are keen to see what opportunities contract reform will bring for patients and practitioners.

To explore what the future of Optometry in NI could look like we recently had an away day and are now working to develop a five year strategy to move our profession forward.


We were delighted to see Raymond Curran and Janice McCrudden receive their fellowship at the recent College graduation ceremony huge congratulations to them both! Thank you to each of you for all you do in your communities and the support you give to ONI.Seasons greetings from myself and all the committee.

Jill Campbell (ONI Chair)


Strengthen Eyecare in Northern Ireland: World Sight Day, Pan Ophthalmology Ireland & Patient Engagement Day

Queen’s University Belfast organised events to mark the special celebration of World Sight Day and Pan-Ophthalmology Ireland. The two main organisers were Professor Tunde Peto (Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology and clinical lead of Diabetic Eye Screening in Northern Ireland) and Ms Sara Shields (Research Coordinator). These events were held on from 13 th -14 th October 2022 where an international line-up of speakers shared their insights, thoughts and expertise in eye care. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, ophthalmic nurses, technicians, researchers and students from across UK, Ireland and further afield were in attendance. Representatives from Optometry Northern Ireland (ONI) also attended the events to show their support and engage with key people in their field.

Most importantly, patients were at the forefront of the celebrations, attending a Patient Engagement Day on Saturday 15th October. The patients had an opportunity to share their experiences with living with sight loss, in addition to learning about existing and future valuable eye research and treatments.

Throughout the discussions, we learnt about the progress and challenges that diabetic eye screening across the 5 nations has faced since the COVID-19 pandemic. We also heard about myopia management from key representatives in this field. Finally, we developed a greater understanding of artificial intelligence and how it will facilitate and support optometry and ophthalmology in the future.

We would strongly encourage optometrists to attend the events next year to show their support and collaborate with respective colleagues. Strengthening partnerships between optometrists, ophthalmologists and other health care personnel will help to construct a more effective and patient-centred health care delivery system. Finally, attending such events is an excellent opportunity for optometrists to contribute to their continuing professional development (CPD). Next year the World Sight Day and Pan-Ophthalmology Ireland events will take place on 12-13th October 2023.

Figure 1: Katie Curran (College of Optometrists Council Member, NI), Jill Campbell (ONI Chairperson), Michael Fairbairn (NIOS Chairperson)

Figure 2: Christina Black (Lord Mayor of Belfast), Tunde Peto (Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, QUB), Colin Willoughby (Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, UU)

Update by Katie Curran, College of Optometrists



ONI along with a couple of IP community optometrists have been discussing the potential for an enhanced level of PEARS
since late 2020 with the SPPG. Mr David Armstrong, Consultant Ophthalmologist at the eye casualty in the Royal, as well as some IP hospital optometrists have also been helping investigate the feasibility of such a new service.

Last year I was asked to talk on zoom to a virtual room full of Ophthalmologist about what eye conditions we managed with PEARS and how the scheme worked. It was clear from the questions that followed that the Ophthalmologists were impressed at what we were managing and preventing from getting to secondary care. Flashes and floaters, blepharitis, dry eye and you know the rest. Since COVID many Ophthalmologists quickly realised that the patients they saw were being managed in community and these patients were returning to hospital and commenting on how well they were looked after during periods of lockdown.

This new PEARS scheme is hoped to be piloted for 12 weeks in the Belfast Trust area in the new year. It will utilise IP Optometrists to help manage a small number of conditions including iritis, marginal keratitis and viral keratitis. The service will be reviewed and outcomes measured to see if there is potential for a regional service should funds allow.


OHT update

More than 50 practices throughout Northern Ireland are involved in the OHT monitoring and management scheme. The numbers of patients being discharged into primary care has been increasing as the service rolls out. These patients attend an accredited Optometrist who has been involved in the Glaucoma ECHO training. The patients are reviewed annually to assess whether they have progressed or not.

Optometry Northern Ireland has been working closely with the SPPG and contractors to assist with enhancing the service further. Optometrists are now able to seek further advice when required in order to initiate drops. The patient also benefits from quicker treatment which inevitably could save sight. There have also been group discussions on adequate remuneration for repeat fields and we are delighted that there patients are getting quality care much closer to home.

Update by Brian McKeown, IP, Vice Chair


Education Strategic Review

As you will be aware, as part of the General Optical Council’s Education Strategic Review (ESR) the GOC have updated their requirements for education and training of GOC approved qualifications. In December 2021 the council approved new education and training requirements in Optometry and Dispensing Optics. The fundamental purpose of updating these requirements is to ensure that optical professionals are equipped for the future and that the qualifications that the GOC approve are fit for purpose.Several key changes have been made and these include: the introduction of a new outcomes-based approach (moving away from competency-based methods and utilisation of patient episode tallies); an emphasis on the development of professional capability for present and future roles as a healthcare professional; the introduction of a minimum Regulated Qualification Framework; the introduction of patient-facing learning requirements with this learning embedded throughout the programme; the introduction of an integrated approach to curriculum design informed by a range of stakeholders (to include patients); the use of an competency and assessment hierarchy already implemented in other areas of healthcare training; a greater emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion; and a new risk-based approach to quality assurance and enhancement.

Across the UK, current and prospective providers are planning how they will meet the updated Standards for Approved Qualifications and Outcomes for Approved Qualifications outlined by the GOC Requirements. The shape of programmes will differ from institution to institution and the implementation timeframes will also vary.

The team at Ulster University have taken the decision to be early adopters of the updated Standards and will accept the first cohort for this new programme in September 2023. We are currently working alongside the GOC in order to produce a programme which fits
with their requirements. One of the key changes mentioned above is the introduction of patient-facing learning embedded throughout the programme. Currently, our plan is for students to have one-week placements in primary care practice during both Year 1 and Year 2. You may have seen recent communication from Ulster University regarding this and in preparation we are trialling a short (5-day) placement with our Year 2 students in January. We are delighted that many practices have come on board for January or expressed an interest in being involved with this initiative in the future.

For those who have contacted us, we are currently at the planning stage and will be in
touch with further details soon. If anyone would like any further information please contact Dr Karen Breslin (

Update by Dr Karen Breslin, University of Ulster


Lets talk

We feel passionately about our profession and we want the best for each and everyone of our members.

This simple newsletter is a way to reach out to you and give you the opportunity to have an impact on the future of Optometry in Northern Ireland.

Our key routes for communication will be via whichever email you have provided and via our Facebook group.

Please email us with any email updates so you don’t miss out.

Jill Campbell (ONI Chair)
Facebook: Optometry Northern Ireland Private Members