Visiting Optometrists Scheme

The Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) supports optometrists to deliver outreach optometric services to remote and very remote locations, and rural communities with an identified need for optometric services.

Page last updated: 01 April 2015

Visiting Optometrists Scheme

The Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) was established in 1975 to provide funding to optometrists to deliver outreach eye care services to people living in regional, rural and remote locations, who do not have ready access to primary eye care services.

In 2009-10 the VOS was expanded to provide increased optometry services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly in remote and very remote locations

Evaluation of the VOS

The Evaluation of the Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program and the Visiting Optometrists Scheme (the Evaluation) published in January 2012, contained a number of recommendations to enhance the programme.  In response to these recommendations, the Department of Health is introducing fund holder arrangements for the programme, with a single jurisdictional fund holder to be appointed in each state and the Northern Territory.

Fund holders will manage the delivery of optometry services funded via the programme and will be responsible for recruiting optometrists to provide outreach services in regional, rural and remote locations.  It is expected that these fund holders will deliver efficiencies and maximise capacity for coordination of services delivered by eye care teams covering the full range of eye health services, based on a single needs assessment and planning process for this programme, the Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF) and the Medical Outreach – Indigenous Chronic Disease Programme (MOICDP).

About the VOS

The Australian Government is providing funding for the Visiting Optometrists Scheme (the programme) through a targeted non-competitive funding round.

The new VOS Guidelines and Service Delivery documents (valid from 1 July 2015) for the new fundholder arrangements provide information on the VOS including the role of fundholders and advice on the VOS programme.

The targeted funding round for a fundholder in each state and the Northern Territory will be completed by mid 2015. The organisations being targeted under the programme have been selected as a result of an open competitive round conducted in early 2012 for the RHOF and MOIDCP fundholder funding rounds and were assessed in terms of their capacity to undertake needs assessment and planning processes and effectively manage and coordinate delivery of outreach eye health services.

Contact details of fundholders, will be made available on the Department of Health website once this process is complete.

Objectives of the VOS

The objective of the VOS is to improve the eye health of people in regional, rural and remote locations by:

  • increasing optometry services in areas of identified need;
  • improving the coordination and integration of those eye health services and the quality of ongoing patient care; and
  • enhancing communication between visiting optometrists, local health providers and other visiting health professionals.

To achieve this, the VOS reimburses a range of expenses incurred by optometrists providing outreach services. Funds are available for:

  • travel, accommodation and meals
  • facility fees and administrative support at the outreach location
  • locum support at the home practice
  • lease and transport of equipment.

National priority locations

Under the VOS, services are targeted to areas of need located within the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Areas (ASGC-RA) 2 – 5 (Inner Regional – Very Remote) with a focus on communities in ASGC-RA 4 and 5 (Remote and Very Remote). Communities in ASGC-RA 2 and 3 (Inner Regional and Outer Regional) with an identified need for optometric services may also be considered to receive VOS services.

A list of national priority locations has been developed by the Department in consultation with the VOS National Advisory Committee and VOS State and Territory Reference Groups. These advisory groups include representatives from the Optometrists Association Australia, Vision 2020 Australia and the relevant State and Northern Territory governments.

The list of national priority locations is available for download. National Priority Locations (Effective from 1 July 2012),

Review of Priority locations

The fundholders for the VOS will work with the Department to establish priority locations for VOS services, including those that relate specifically to services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This will include consideration of:

  • gaps in service delivery at the jurisdictional and local level;
  • the capacity of the identified location to sustain outreach services;
  • potential linkages between VOS services and existing primary care services; and
  • potential linkages between VOS services and other visiting health professionals.

VOS Programme Guidelines

The Programme Guidelines for the Visiting Optometrists Scheme to June 2015 are available.

VOS  locator map

The VOS locator map provides current state, location and frequency of visits. In the near future contact details for the fundholder in each jurisdiction will be added. The map can be found on the Rural and Regional Health Australia site under the tab Map locator –Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) map locator

Contacts

Postal Address:
Director, Better Access Section (MDP:750)
Rural, Remote and Indigenous Access Branch
Indigenous and Rural Health Division
Department of Health
GPO Box 9848
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Email: vos@health.gov.auTop of page


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