New Eye Checks In The High Street Rather Than Hospital

A number of glaucoma patients in NHS Forth Valley are being given the chance to attend their regular eye review at a high street optician, rather than having to travel to hospital for an appointment.

A ground-breaking pilot scheme has begun in a local optician in Alloa and will roll out soon to practices in Dunblane and Falkirk as part of a national programme of shared eye care.

People will be able to be examined by an optometrist, and the results will be relayed to an NHS Forth Valley consultant ophthalmologist for assessment. Visual fields and scans will be uploaded so that the consultant can review them remotely removing the need for patients, who often have to rely on friends or family for transport, to travel to an eye clinic at hospital. The test results will be transferred using a secure electronic patient record.

The scheme began at L A Hunter Optometrists in Alloa on 10th September 2021 and will soon be followed by availability at Erskine Eyecare in Dunblane and For Eyes Opticians in Camelon and Nicol’s Opticians in Alva.

Linda Hunter, who has an independent prescribing qualification and is studying for an advanced qualification specifically aimed at caring for glaucoma patients within a shared care setting, has also been working in eye clinics in local hospitals during weekends throughout lockdown to help with any backlog.

She said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for a truly collaborative relationship between primary and secondary care to not only improve patient care moving forward, but also help relieve the burden on already overstretched NHS departments.

“Substantial investment by a number of local community optometrists, including my own, in hospital grade equipment means that eye care can move from the hospital to the community. If a more urgent healthcare issue were to arise in one of these review appointments and it was necessary to speak to a consultant, I can also dial in remotely for a face-to-face consultation.

“Having these regular checks in a community-based practice also removes any stress associated with hospital visits and cuts down waiting lists for hospital-based appointments, allowing clinicians more time to see those who are at greatest need and require a different approach to their eye care.”

Jason Graham, Operational Manager, NHS Forth Valley, said: “We are delighted to introduce this new eye care initiative in NHS Forth Valley and look forward to rolling out a number of additional local opticians over the next few weeks. We really appreciate the support of local community optometrists during the pandemic, including those who have and continue to help run additional eye clinics at Forth Valley Royal Hospital during weekends to help tackle the backlog of appointments.

“Optometrists are also very highly skilled healthcare professionals so this new shared care initiative helps to make use of their skills and expertise as well as freeing up hospital-based staff to focus on patients with more complex eye care needs.”