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: 09 May 2016

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.

Fundholder arrangements

Optometrists interested in providing services under the VOS programme can contact the fundholder in their state/ territory. Fund holder contact details are listed below.

State
Fund holder
Contact details
NSW
02) 4924 8000
VIC
03) 9349 7800
QLD
07) 3105 8300
SA
08) 8234 8277
WA
08) 6389 4500
TAS
1300 135 513
NT
Individual optometrists contracted in 2015-16

Fundholders 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).

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, including;

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

Eligible locations

The Department of Health uses the Australian Geographical Classification - Remoteness Areas (ASGC-RA) classification system to determine eligibility for service locations across Australia:

Remoteness Area 1 - major cities
Remoteness Area 2 - inner regional
Remoteness Area 3 - outer regional
Remoteness Area 4 - remote
Remoteness Area 5 - very remote

Under the VOS, services are targeted to areas of need located within the 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. Services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients may also be provided in RA1 (please refer to the Service Delivery Standards for the VOS - page 4)

The fundholders for the VOS undertake a needs assessment to identify priority locations for delivery of outreach optometry services.

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 Service Delivery Standards and Programme Guidelines

VOS Service Delivery Standards - valid from 1 July 2015.

VOS Programme Guidelines - valid till 30 June 2016

VOS locator map

The VOS locator map provides current state, location and frequency of visits.

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 has introduced fund holder arrangements for the programme, with a single jurisdictional fund holder to be appointed in each state and the Northern Territory.

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.au

Top of page