Mapping eye accident and emergency clinics in London

A new Google Map resource has been made to provide information on local eye clinics, aiming to help optometrists and patients to find their closest units

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A new resource has been created to provide the most up-to-date information for optometrists on the opening times and contact details for ophthalmology services and eye accident and emergency (A&E) clinics in London.

As changes have been made to the way ophthalmology units have been operating during the lockdown, seeing only those with urgent and sight-threatening problems, optometrists have seen a wider range of patients seeking care in the community.

Following the changes made to ophthalmic services, a need was identified for up-to-date service information, including guidance and contacts to help optometrists when referring patients during the pandemic.

Evelyn Mensah, consultant eye surgeon and clinical lead for Ophthalmology Outpatient Transformation in London, said the pandemic brought rapid change to eye services, adding: “We wanted to make it easy for optometrists and ophthalmologists to stay on top of changes and access the information they need to refer appropriately.”

To meet this need, the Directory of London Ophthalmology Service Provision was created as a result of a close collaboration between London Ophthalmology Clinical Leads. The directory brings together information covering service opening hours, subspecialty cover, and referral pathways.

An ophthalmic registrar at Moorfields Eye Hospital built on the resource further, extracting the A&E unit information and plotting this on a Google Map, hoping to aid referrals for urgent care and reduce travel times by showing the nearest available services.

Ms Mensah said the map was the result of “collaborative working across London,” explaining that “It offers easy access to contact details and guidance for eye casualty services and will help to reduce travel times by referring people closer to home. It’s just one example of the kind of rapid innovation, large and small, that is taking place across the NHS every day as teams adopt new ways of working to provide great care.”

Commenting on why he decided to plot the A&E data onto the map, Jonathan Than, a speciality trainee (ST3) doctor in ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital, explained: “I often see patients who have travelled from all over London and the United Kingdom to attend our accident and emergency department. When asked why the patient chose to travel such a distance, the answer is frequently that they were not aware of the existence of more local eye casualty units.”

Mr Than added that the directory of information has been particularly useful as the use of video consultations for ophthalmic emergencies has risen, particularly with Moorfields’ Attend Anywhere platform. He commented: “As patients can call from anywhere in London, there is often the need to refer those who require an emergency review to their local unit promptly.”

“I wanted to translate the contents of the directory into an interactive visual representation which would allow me to input the patient’s postcode to immediately identify the closest open unit and its referral details,” Mr Than explained.

With Google My Maps offering the necessary tools, the resource was created with the help of Mr Than’s registrar colleagues, Parth Shah, Matt Gillam and George Varkos.

I hope that this map can… encourage harmonious collaboration between optometrists and eye casualties, which is vital to ensure the best possible patient care

Jonathan Than, a specialist trainee doctor in ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital

The Google Map tool shows the nearest eye A&E clinics and includes information like the name and address of the ophthalmology unit, opening times and contact details, as well as advice and guidance.

Mr Than told OT: “I only expected the map to be used by myself, and the Moorfields team at a push, but have been pleasantly surprised to see its use widen through word of mouth.”

Clinicians from across London and neighbouring counties have been involved in correcting and adding to the information on their units, Mr Than said, adding: “I am glad it has proven useful for clinicians and hope that patient care has benefited as a result.”

Commenting on the resource, Henry Leonard, head of clinical and regulatory for the AOP, said: “This map is a useful resource for optometrists working in and around London, enabling them to quickly locate the closest available eye casualty for patients who need urgent or emergency care which cannot be provided in the community. The map includes opening hours and contact details, and a colour-coded key to help identify which departments are open 24 hours.”

“Going forward, it would be great to see this initiative widened to cover more of the UK,” Mr Leonard added.

The teams confirmed that plans are in place to keep the directory updated during and beyond the pandemic and Mr Than aims to keep the map up to date beyond the COVID-19 situation.

“I appreciate that optometrists often face significant barriers when seeking advice from, or referring a patient to, an eye casualty unit. Such barriers include lack of clear referral pathways, inability to contact on-call ophthalmologists, and confusion as to where and when a patient should be referred,” Mr Than commented. “I hope that this map can address some of these issues to break down these barriers and encourage harmonious collaboration between optometrists and eye casualties, which is vital to ensure the best possible patient care.”

He continued: “In future, I aim to ensure the map always remains up to date so that it can prove useful long after the COVID-19 pandemic passes. Future potential updates that have been discussed include covering optometrist practices, and expanding the map across the United Kingdom.”