Sheffield students first in the world to study new medicines module for orthoptists

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New module launched after government legislation allows orthoptists to supply and administer medicines under exemptions
It is hoped the new module will provide vital support to the frontline of the NHS
The University of Sheffield is one of only three universities in the UK to offer an Orthoptic course
Students from the University of Sheffied are the first in the world to study a new module for orthoptists, which will allow them to independently supply certain medicines to patients.

The new Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) approved module was launched after the government passed legislation allowing orthoptists to supply and administer medicines under exemptions.

As the first orthoptists now begin to supply medicines in their clinical practice, it is hoped this will help provide vital support to the frontline of the NHS.

The University of Sheffield is one of only three universities in the UK to offer an undergraduate Orthoptic course.

Orthoptics is the investigation and management of disorders of binocular vision and defects of eye movement. Orthoptists are employed in hospital eye departments, receiving referrals from consultant ophthalmologists, GPs, health visitors, school nurses and optometrists. Orthoptists also work in the community, providing vision screening in schools and health centres and in many extended roles such as in low vision, glaucoma, stroke and other specialist services.

Orthoptist Greg Richardson, 31, is one of the first cohort of 12 to successfully pass the new module.

“I really enjoyed getting exposure to different aspects of ophthalmology that I haven’t worked in so much previously, and thinking about how I can apply exemptions to other areas of my practice,” he said.

“It is great to be among the first cohort of students to qualify in the use of exemptions, and to be able to put the skills learnt into practice. It is really good to be able to provide the best possible care to my patients by using medicines within my scope of practice.”

Fellow orthoptist, Aishah Baig, 26, said: “Personally, one of the biggest positives of the module was that it greatly broadened my knowledge base; it helped me to more fully understand and feel safer in the use of medicines we use as orthoptists on a regular basis.

“Passing this module has made me feel that I can confidently use these medicines in practice independently. The course has also equipped me with invaluable new knowledge and skills enabling me to take on extended roles in my future career, which is becoming increasingly important in orthoptics due to the demands on ophthalmology services.

“I am hopeful that this module and exemptions law will help orthoptists across the country in providing more efficient services to their patients.”

Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in Orthoptics, Dr Charlotte Codina, said: “We are delighted to see these students become able to supply the medicines exempted for orthoptists.

“As the first ever orthoptists qualify in this new area of expertise, it will mean that patients are able to receive more timely medication, have greater choice of treatment and ultimately better, evidence-based care.

“We have been really impressed with how our students have reflected on their own clinical practice, the advanced knowledge they have shown of these medicines and the implications of independently supplying medicines to patients in the future.

“We’re very thankful to the British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS) and to the BIOS medicines project lead, Claire Saha, for making exemptions for orthoptists possible. We are confident that our qualified students will improve patient care as a result.”

For more information about Orthoptics and studing at the University of Sheffield please visit: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/medicine/prospective_ug/bmedsci/about-orthoptics