Optometrists are to be given prescription powers in an effort to reduce the amount of visits to GPs' surgeries, the government has said.
The eye specialists are being handed the authority to prescribe drugs for conditions such as dry eye syndrome, conjunctivitis and blepharitis, which causes inflammation.
Optometrists test people's sight and look for eye diseases or related illnesses such as diabetes, and undergo more training than dispensing opticians.
There are around 10,000 registered optometrists in the UK, some of whom already have prescribing powers.
Rhod Daniel, chair of the BMA's ophthalmic group committee, said: "Provided it is safe, it works, and it is cost-effective, optometry prescribing is a step forward as it will improve access, make better use of optometry skills and reduce nonsight-threatening referrals to eye hospitals.
"Optometry prescribing will need to be properly monitored as the safety of the patient must always take precedence over convenience and economics."
Kevin Lewis, president of the College of Optometrists, said: "Allowing optometrists to prescribe independently will complement their existing diagnostic skills and further develop their role in the management of eye disease.
"The college is working with City University in developing clinical management guidelines that will be available shortly to support optometrists undertaking independent prescribing."