Lucy Jenkins catches up with Optician’s reigning Optometrist of the Year
Andrew Matheson (left) receives his Optician Awards trophy from Optician editor Chris Bennett
Andrew Matheson of Matheson Optometrists was away in France with his family when he won the much coveted Optometrist of the Year Award at the 2014 Optician Awards sponsored by CooperVision. ‘I couldn’t make sense of all the well done and congratulations emails, until someone told me,’ he says. ‘It was completely by chance; I only entered the Awards as colleagues suggested it.’
However, Matheson is no stranger to the limelight as he has previously received an Optometrist of the Year Award from the Macular Society for his excellence in the field of macular disease and won first prize in the Keeler Retinal Photography, both in 2013.
Qualifying in 1982 and specialising in dry eye, Matheson heads seven Sussex and Hampshire practices in Petersfield, Four Marks, Grayshott, Purbrook, Denmead and Alresford. Due to his heavy involvement in the diagnosis and treatment of macular disease, Matheson has OCT scanners in three practices and developed the company’s own autoflourescence imaging systems which enable earlier detection of macular problems.
He has also written extensively in the optical press on therapeutics, dry eye and autoflouresence and was the author of the College of Optometrists’ and DOCET’s’ Dry Eye Management training DVD.
‘I look forward to every day I go to work. I would never want to do another job. Optometry has so many facets which means that you can be learning new skills throughout your career. I believe in developing a new specialist interest or skill at least every two years.’
Matheson Optometrists has a loyal patient base with many coming as a result of GP referrals as well as from all over the UK and several European countries to experience Matheson’s specialist contact lens fittings and dry eye clinics. The business is also hot on continuing professional development for staff and has so far trained 26 pre-reg optometrists and enable others to gain their therapeutic qualifications.
‘We must help newly qualified optometrists develop their university gained skills and teach them the tricks of the trade so that they can become excellent optometrists. This takes an investment of time and money but helps the status of the profession grow and is the best way of obtaining a team of excellent colleagues to work with.’
With Matheson’s emphasis on advancing therapeutic optometry throughout the practices and their communities, how does he see the future of optics progressing?
‘The skill base in optometry has improved so much in the last 20 years. However, it’s sad that the NHS is forever trying to pressurise us to see our patients less often than they need seeing and not prescribe spectacles even when they would relieve a patient’s symptoms. You wonder how much [the diagnostics of] eye disease will progress much further with this short-term penny pinching.
‘It’s also important to educate the public about their eyes and how a modern optometrist can help them. We have a website full of information which is heavily used by our patients and provide domiciliary service to those who are housebound. Above all, you should give the service that you would like to receive yourself or that you would want your granny to receive.’
Matheson’s compassion also extends internationally as he has sponsored humanitarian trips to Malawi and Romania with Returning Vision as well as sending staff on the projects to help with testing and spectacle dispensing.
Even though Matheson wasn’t present to receive his award, what did his practice teams think about his success?
‘The staff were proud that we had done so well and an optometrist is only as good as his team around him. Winning Optometrist of the Year has validated all that we have been striving to do.’