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Call for CCGs to commission community eye health services


21 March 2016

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The Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) and the Optical Confederation, which represents optometrists in the UK, are calling on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to stop the eye care “postcode lottery” and commission community eye health services.

The Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) and the Optical Confederation, which represents optometrists in the UK, are calling on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to stop the eye care “postcode lottery” and commission community eye health services.

Commissioning more high street eye health services could take pressure off hospital ophthalmology services and reduce patients’ risk of irreversible sight loss as services are at bursting point.
 
The call on CCGs to introduce more eye services on the high street follows comments by one of the UK’s leading ophthalmologists that patients’ care is at risk as NHS eye clinics are under pressure.
 
The president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Professor Carrie MacEwan said follow-up appointments can be “delayed by years” so some patients do not get treated on time.
  
LOCSU managing director Katrina Venerus said: “Professor MacEwan is right to draw attention to the severe pressure eye clinics are under.

“A major part of the solution – already set put in the NHS Five Year Forward View – is to expand services by transferring more routine and step-down care into community optical practices.”
 
She said the services of the UK’s 10,000 optometrists could be used to monitor low-risk patients in the community. Local studies showed on average this could take up to a third of at risk patients off waiting lists, freeing up ophthalmologists to concentrate on the most urgent cases and follow-up appointments, she said.
 
Venerus called on CCGs to open their eyes to the role optical practices could play in relieving the pressure on hospital ophthalmology services.
 
“For too long, optical practices have been overlooked as part of delivering a reformed and preventative NHS. But optical professionals have the skills and locations and the determination to play a part in delivering better eye health and reduce levels of preventable blindness.
“CCGs need to wake up to this and realise community services are a cost-effective solution,” she added.
 
Venerus said LOCSU is already supporting optometrists in a number of areas to work with ophthalmologists in acute trusts on initiatives to help address capacity problems. She said: “But we need all CCGs to put patients’ sight at the top of their health agenda and commission appropriate local services to ease bottlenecks.”
 
She also urged the NHS to link optical services to its IT systems, including e-Referral Service to ensure patient care is integrated.

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