Using skills in a wider capacity

Lead optometrist at Banks Optometrists in Brixton, London, Uma Patel, tells OT  about how providing minor eye conditions services has improved the practice’s relationship with other healthcare professionals

Banks optometrists

How long have you been providing minor eye conditions services (MECS) for?

We’ve been providing MECS since 2012. It has made us very popular with local GPs as we share reports with them, so they get to see the outcomes for the patients who they referred to us. We find that when a patient goes to their GP and they are referred to the opticians they put their trust in us. The patient is getting a much more detailed eye test compared to what they’ve had before because we give them a half an hour appointment. We get a lot of positive feedback and they appreciate our work, which is very rewarding.

How does MECS work in your area?

There are a number of practices near us that provide MECS, so if we are unable to see somebody in 48 hours then they are directed to another practice. Awareness of MECS among patients is increasing. Most patients are directed by their GP, while some have picked up a leaflet from a pharmacist or a friend told them about it.

A study into MECS in Lambeth and Lewisham in 2016, which our practice was involved in, showed a significant reduction in first attendances and follow-ups at hospital. It has improved our relationship with the hospital as the consultants know us well because we work and train with them. They give us feedback on MECS patients that we see because we send a report for every patient seen. They’ll recommend things to do and we can ask questions, which all helps to make us better optometrists.

It is a much more efficient patient pathway. We allow for a longer appointment to explain to patients how to manage their condition. We’re always there for a follow-up if they need it to review treatment options

 

What are the main benefits to patients?

The main benefit to a patient with a routine eye complaint, such as dry eye or blepharitis, is that they don’t have to wait months to be seen at a hospital. They’ll be seen by us within a few days of seeing their GP. It is a much more efficient patient pathway. We allow for a longer appointment to explain to patients how to manage their condition. We’re always there for a follow-up if they need it to review treatment options.

Why should other practices introduce MECS?

For optometrists, it creates more variety in your day because we see all sorts of eye conditions. As a result, you are always learning and improving your skills. By introducing MECS, you can treat patients eye conditions as a whole rather than just giving them glasses and passing them onto someone else. You can use the skills you learnt while training to become an optometrist in a wider capacity.

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