The use of commissioned primary care optometry services has been recommended by a national report into ophthalmology services.
The Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) report makes recommendations for all NHS trusts to make better use of theatre time for routine cataract surgery and improve patient care.
It highlights that cataract patients who do not experience complications could receive follow-up care closer to home via optometrists in the community.
Co-author of the report and consultant paediatric ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, Alison Davis (pictured), said: “Our discussions during this review process have shown that there is an appetite for change in ophthalmology, and we are excited by the opportunities offered by the recommendations in this report.”
An ageing population
The report is based on data from visits to 120 trusts across England and makes 22 recommendations for units treating cataract, glaucoma, wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.
GIRFT estimates that its recommendations have the potential to deliver cost efficiencies of up to £64m.
It highlighted that around 400,000 cataract operations were carried out in 2018, making it the most common surgical procedure in the NHS.
GIRFT expects demand on ophthalmology services to increase by more than 50% over the next 20 years because of an ageing population.
Its main recommendation is for all trusts to perform routine cataract surgery in 30 minutes or less to allow more patients to receive treatment.
GIRFT estimates that if all trusts were able to treat eight cataract patients on a four-hour theatre list, it could create an additional 26,5000 hours of theatre time for 53,000 more operations a year.
Other recommendations include providing care for AMD in settings outside of hospital, such as mobile eye units and community eye clinics, and improving the referral process for patients to reduce the number of people attending hospital unnecessarily.
The full potential of primary care
Commenting on the report, the AOP’s clinical director, Dr Peter Hampson, said: “We are pleased to see the GIRFT report’s endorsement of the role of community optometrists in the pre- and post-hospital care of patients with cataract, glaucoma, medical retina and other areas of care.
“Likewise, we welcome the recognition of the expanded role of the hospital optometrist. The evidence for safety and cost effectiveness quoted in the report should mean that these schemes are adopted nationwide, improving patient care and reducing the cross-border issues currently experienced around the country.”
“Increased data availability and sharing of electronic information will improve patient care and increase confidence across the system. It is of the utmost importance that this data availability also extends to community optometrists, if the full potential of primary care is to be realised,” he added.