The Occupational Therapy Board of Australia works under the framework of the Health Practitioner Regulation Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law). The National Law protects titles, such as ‘occupational therapists’ rather than acts. The National Law does not restrict a practitioner’s practice, with the exception of certain defined dental acts, prescription of optical appliances and cervical spinal manipulation which must only be carried out by appropriately qualified and skilled chiropractors, osteopaths, medical practitioners and physiotherapists.
Section 122 of the National Law provides a restriction on the prescription of optical appliances:
A person must not prescribe an optical appliance unless –
- The person is an optometrist or medical practitioner; or
- The person is a person, or a member of a class of persons, prescribed under a regulation as being authorised to prescribe an optical appliance of that type or to prescribe optical appliances generally; or
- The appliance is spectacles and the person is an orthoptist who –
- Prescribes the spectacles in the course of carrying out duties at a public health facility; or
- Prescribes the spectacles under the supervision of an optometrist or medical practitioner; or
- Prescribes the spectacles on the written referral of an optometrist or medical practitioner, to a person who has had, within the 12 months before the referral, an ocular health examination conducted by an optometrist or medical practitioner
The National Law defines an, ‘optical appliance’ to mean:
- any appliance designed to correct, remedy or relieve any refractive abnormality or defect of sight; this includes, for example, spectacle lenses, or
- contact lenses, whether or not designed to correct, remedy or relieve any refractive abnormality or defect of sight
An ‘optical appliance’ also includes low-vision devices such as magnifiers.
The Board notes that while it does not define the scope of practice occupational therapists may undertake in their everyday work, as it would difficult to encompass all practices and treatment modalities and it would be difficult to keep up with advances in practice, the prescription of magnifiers is a restricted act under the National Law. Therefore the prescription of a magnifier can only be performed by health practitioners who are registered with the Optometry or Medical Board’s of Australia.
Further guidelines on the prescription of optical appliances is available on the Optometry Board of Australia’s website.
The Board recognises that optical appliances such as magnifiers, are readily available to consumers over the counter without the need of a prescription. The Board notes that the National Law and the National Boards do not regulate the supply of optical appliances, states and territories may choose to regulate this separately. The National Law is concerned with the prescription of such appliances, where the prescription has been provided to correct, remedy or relieve a refractive abnormality or defect of sight.
Clients can go to an OT to purchase a magnifier that has been prescribed for them by an authorised person listed above.