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New focus for optometrists

30 September 2009

Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre [logo]

The UK’s first centre offering optometrists access to dedicated postgraduate and professional development opportunities at the University has been officially opened by the First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan.

The new Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre (WOPEC) based at the University’s £21m state-of-the-art School of Optometry and Vision Sciences will deliver a co-ordinated approach to the education needs of the optometric community and industry.

Utilising existing facilities, it will offer a flexible rolling programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to qualified eye-care professionals, and ongoing educational support, within the University’s research-led environment.

Professor Tim Wess, Head of the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, said: "This is the first time practising eye-care professionals across Wales, the UK and further afield will have a dedicated centre for postgraduate optometry whose focus is solely on providing high-quality education.

"In an evolving context of healthcare, the optometric practitioner is becoming more empowered as the first point of call for primary healthcare delivery. This role requires enhanced education and training and we are excited that Cardiff University is able lead the way in providing the most up-to-date research-led training for the profession."

Over the next five years a portfolio of key learning opportunities for optometrists and allied professionals will be developed including short courses, diplomas, a modular MSc and further professional development to support key Welsh Assembly Government initiatives.

Optometrists are increasingly expanding the services they offer in communities which are helping to reduce the need for hospital visits and reduce the burden on the NHS.

First Minister, Rhodri Morgan said: "It is the first postgraduate vocational optometry centre of its kind not only in the UK, but the world. The fact that this centre is based in Wales is a further boost to the extraordinary range of higher education and postgraduate courses available in Wales. I am pleased that the Welsh Assembly Government has been able to support Cardiff University with this project and I wish the centre every success."

The Centre will enable the University to offer more structured learning and respond to increasing demands for courses from professionals, healthcare commissioners and companies. The Centre will also facilitate an expansion of Primary Care research, utilising external expertise as necessary.

Mr Richard Roberts, Chief Optometric Advisor to the Welsh Assembly Government said: "Optometrists in Wales will be able, through continuing professional development, to obtain recognition for their engagement with the Wales Eyecare Initiative.

"This Initiative, funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, has resulted in an accreditation programme for optometrists working in primary care, to enhance their skills and to provide for a higher standard of care of their patients. The success of the Wales Eye Health Examination and the Wales Low Vision Scheme has challenged practitioners to enhance and develop their clinical skills.

"The establishment of the Postgraduate Centre will further develop their skills with recognition through postgraduate study. This is an exciting development for the profession and further evidence of the collaboration between the Welsh Assembly Government and the University in the development of eyecare services in Wales."

Optometrists Nik Sheen and Barbara Ryan have played a leading role in the program of education for the Welsh Eye Care Initiative and will head-up the new Centre.