Monnow Eyecare celebrates new optometry contract with visit from Mark Drakeford

Following the launch of the new optometry contract in Wales, Mark Drakeford, the outgoing First Minister of Wales, toured the Monmouth practice to observe the effect of community-based care

Outgoing First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, takes a tour of the Monnow Eyecare practice with Helen Tilley, owner and optometrist, and members of the practice team
Monnow Eyecare, a Hakim Group independent practice in Monmouth, has hosted a visit by the outgoing First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford.

The visit follows a commitment by the Welsh Government of a multi-million-pound investment to support the new optometry contract in Wales.

The contract, which began on 20 October, is set to move aspects of eye care services into the community.

Drakeford, who has resigned as First Minister but remains in post until a successor is found, took a tour of the practice to observe how these services will be implemented.

Helen Tilley, director and senior IP optometrist at Monnow Eyecare, said: “We are thrilled to have the support of the Welsh Government in our mission to enhance eye care services in Wales. This investment will enable us to expand our capabilities and provide even more comprehensive care to our community.”

Monnow Eyecare operates three consulting rooms, with a loyal patient base, particularly among those aged over 60, and has six part-time optometrists with specialised qualifications.

The practice has been running a Glaucoma Ophthalmic Diagnostic Treatment Centre (ODTC) for more than six years and has recorded an increase in patients from 20 to almost 100 a month.

Monnow Eyecare has also integrated Low Vision services and plans to expand its clinical work as the new contract is rolled out.

During the visit to the practice, Drakeford met with patients who have benefited from services at the practice, including Rosemary Green, a glaucoma patient from Llanellen, who emphasised a preference for community-based care.

He also heard from Valerie Heales from Caldicott, a low vision patient, who praised the service and certification of her sight impairment, a part of the new contract.

Tilley said of the new contract: “This investment will not only allow us to monitor stable glaucoma and ocular hypertension in the community, but also triage glaucoma referrals efficiently.”

The practice will be able to receive emergency eye care referrals from other practices, reducing the number of patients who will need to go to eye casualty, Tilley said, adding: “We are proud to be at the forefront of upskilling the eye care profession in Wales.”

"It has been a really amazing few weeks”

The past month has marked an exciting period for the practice team, as it received two accolades at Optometry Wales’ first awards ceremony. The awards recognised Helen Tilley as Optometrist of the Year, and the team as Practice of the Year.

Tilley's career in optics spans more than 30 years and includes periods as chair of Optometry Wales, as well as a senior council member of the General Optical Council.

With this in mind, Tilley told OT: “You won’t be surprised that I am delighted to see the contract get over the line, with optometrists being able to provide professional services which match their ability. Me included.”

“I could have retired a few years ago, but have stayed practising because I wanted to be part of this exciting development in our profession,” she said. Tilley undertook the IP course in 2017, and followed this with a higher certification in glaucoma in 2022.

Speaking of the effect of the new contract for the practice, Tilley explained: “Our team at Monnow have all embraced and are passionate about supporting the contract and all have become higher qualified, as it not only provides a better service to our patients, but keeps the day-to-day role interesting and varied.”

“It is part of why we are proud to be awarded in the last few weeks as Welsh practice of the year, Welsh optometrist of the year, and within the Hakim Group, best patient growth. All in all, it has been a really amazing few weeks at Monnow Eyecare,” she concluded.