Pioneering glaucoma scheme goes live in Gwent

Three Welsh practices, including a Specsavers store, are chosen by the Health Board after a successful pilot scheme, with 4000 patients a year expected to be referred

Chris Tannorella

Specsavers’ new store in Newport is one of three High Street opticians in Gwent selected to provide a pioneering glaucoma service in the community by the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, it was announced this week.

Thousands of Gwent residents at risk of developing glaucoma will be able to access specialist eye care close to their homes, either with Specsavers in its new store in Austin Friars, Newport, or at Julian Davies Opticians in Newport, or at Phillips Opticians in Torfaen.

The Health Board is expecting to refer more than 4000 patients per year to the new community eye centres, reducing waiting time for treatment.

The scheme has been running as a pilot initiative since 2014, allowing opticians to perform a series of tests for glaucoma assessment, including virtual links to the consultant-led clinics where they are reviewed by a consultant ophthalmologist. It enables prioritisation of patients to the most appropriate pathway for their care.

A consultant ophthalmologist at the Health Board, Des O’Duffy, said: “As a response to a significant number of delayed hospital appointments associated with glaucoma, we commissioned this new service.

“By having expert staff working from High Street opticians, we are able to offer care closer to people’s homes, improving their experience and reducing waiting times.

“It is wonderful for our patients that they are being seen in a timely fashion and issues are identified and managed appropriately.”

Welcoming the launch of the scheme, Specsavers co-founder, Doug Perkins, said: “This is exactly the kind of enhanced optical service that we should seek to be involved in as optometrists, using our skills to the benefit of patients and enhancing the interface between primary and secondary care.”

“I am delighted that Specsavers is part of setting up this pioneering scheme,” he concluded.

Significant partnership

Optometrist and joint venture partner at Specsavers in Newport, Craig MacKenzie, said: “Unfortunately eye conditions like glaucoma can develop without symptoms and may only present themselves when they are at advanced stages, which is why the shared care scheme is such a significant partnership.

“It aims to test and treat people quickly and, wherever possible, manage the case in the community as opposed to in a hospital,” he said.

Mr MacKenzie added: “We’re thrilled to have won the contract to deliver the shared care scheme following our successful involvement in the pilot scheme. It cements our position as a key support system to both the community and the NHS and we’re confident the collaboration will benefit thousands of people.”

Optometrist owner of Julian Davies Opticians, Chris Tannorella (pictured), told OT: “We are really excited about helping the health board to deliver the best kind of patient care for this new service.

“Our practice is committed to delivering excellent clinical care and it's fantastic that the health board and Welsh government have recognised this and have chosen us to partner them in this groundbreaking new initiative.”

He added: “We know that patients are going to be able to access the best clinical care and expertise at a location that is convenient to them, on the High Street in a timely and appropriate manner.  

“We are looking forward to working with the local health board and their excellent consultant ophthalmologists to realise their vision and exceed patient expectations,” he concluded.

Optometrist owner of Phillips Opticians, Dorian Waters, told OT: “We opened the practice about 18 months ago in a resource centre, which also has a doctors surgery and a dentists, so we have state-of-the art equipment.

“We are thrilled at winning this contract – it’s good for patients, for me as a business owner and for the town itself. It’s great for our optometrists as it enables them to further use their skills to help patients who would otherwise have a long wait for an appointment. It’s great to get involved in schemes such as this.”