RANZCO complaint not upheld

December 14, 2022 Staff reporters

The New Zealand Regulations Review Committee (RRC) has rejected the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists’ (RANZCO) complaint about the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board’s (ODOB's) specialist optometrist ophthalmic laser surgery scope of practice and its associated prescribing qualification.


The RRC decision means that this previously gazetted specialist scope and qualification remains valid and legal, the ODOB said. “This is an important outcome for optometry practice in New Zealand. The Specialist scope of practice will safely enable changes to models of care, and allow suitably qualified optometrists to increase the available support and treatment options for the existing and anticipated pressure on ophthalmology services in New Zealand.”


RANZCO complained to the RRC earlier this year about the specialist scope of practice and qualification, asking that it be overturned on the basis that the ODOB’s decision was an "unusual" use of its powers under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA Act) and that it didn’t comply with the HPCA Act’s consultation requirements. RANZCO also raised concerns about compromised patient safety and optometrists' diagnostic skills and decision-making options for intervention.


Having heard from both parties, the RRC concluded the ODOB had acted within its powers and had consulted sufficiently with RANZCO on the proposed decisions. On the question of patient safety, the RRC commented that it was “not clear on the evidence” that patient safety is compromised and  the ODOB had considered patient safety when making its decision.


Welcoming the decision, the ODOB re-stressed how seriously it takes its responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public and said it strongly opposed any patient safety arguments raised by RANZCO. "(The ODOB) made submissions about the careful consideration given to patient safety throughout the process, including during a successful laser surgery pilot programme. The Board had also taken into account international literature which had not identified patient safety risks with optometrist-led laser procedures and the international trend in comparable jurisdictions for optometrists to perform laser surgery."


The ODOB said it was always confident its consultation met its obligations under the HPCA Act and it looked forward to working more closely with RANZCO in the future on matters relating to eye health and eyecare in New Zealand.