Primary Eyecare Services launches ‘Find a practice’

The tool will enable patients to identify practices delivering urgent eye care during the COVID-19 outbreak

optical equipment
Pixabay/Jason Gillman
Primary Eyecare Services has launched a ‘Find a practice’ platform to allow patients to locate practices delivering urgent eye care via its Minor Eye Conditions Services (MECS) or Primary Eyecare Acute Referral Services (PEARS) during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The tool has been launched as a function on Primary Eyecare Services’ new website. Patients can use the system and search by postcode to generate a map and list of practices delivering MECS via Primary Eyecare Services within a chosen distance.

At the launch of the tool, more than 480 optical practices were included and the company expects this will increase.

Participating practices can check the listings and will also be able to access a COVID-19 practice communications checklist for recommended measures.

“Now that there is more clarity from NHS England for the optical sector, we are keen to promote the availability of practices providing urgent eye care services as widely as possible,” Primary Eyecare Services shared in a statement.

Dharmesh Patel, chief executive officer of Primary Eyecare Services, told OT that the tool was already in the works as part of a new website design to highlight which practices deliver MECS. The new website has now launched with the tool and COVID-19 guidance, focusing on these areas during the outbreak.

“This resource is now more important than ever as other modes of communication have become more difficult. You can’t go to a GP or pharmacy and pick up a leaflet in the same way, and at the same time there have been a lot of practice closures,” Mr Patel told OT.

“We have the challenge of trying to communicate to the public in areas where we deliver urgent eye care services through some of the MECS we’re commissioned to provide that practices are still open for that service, and which ones are open and accessible,” he added.

location map

The company is launching a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #urgenteyes to increase awareness of the tool and encourage patients to make use of the resource.

Primary Eyecare Services is also encouraging local clinical governance and performance leads and Local Optical Committees to share the tool with stakeholders such as GPs, pharmacies and hospital eye services.

“We’re communicating this resource to GPs and hospitals in the areas that we work in so they know which practices are open to deflect and direct patients to so they can be seen in a more appropriate setting than hospital,” Mr Patel explained.

“Right now, hospitals are not the places we want patients to be unless they absolutely need to be for emergencies,” Mr Patel said, highlighting that GPs and pharmacies are also overwhelmed, adding: “This is about keeping patients away from those stretched services, and making them aware of where they can get services.”

Mr Patel shared a positive message for the sector, commenting: “Practices are doing superb work out there in very difficult circumstances.”

He specifically highlighted his thanks to Primary Eyecare Services practices, adding: “Our practices delivering urgent eye care have adapted to doing telemedicine, seeing patients face-to-face where absolutely necessary and are supporting patients through what are very difficult challenges both for practices and patients.”

The ‘Find a practice’ resource operates as a function on Primary Eyecare Services’ website.