Take good care
Head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP, Henry Leonard, considers the importance of internal referrals, and offers tips for safe clinical practice
It is a niggle that has played on the minds of many locum optometrists.
Was that worrying symptom followed up on? Did the patient receive further investigation and, if necessary, treatment?
Ensuring continuation of care can be a challenge for locums who may not be sure when they will next be back at a specific practice.
Head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP, Henry Leonard, shared that while it is always “advisable and preferable” to complete a procedure on the day of a sight test, this is not always possible.
Where a follow up test has been completed in the absence of a locum optometrist, they should review the result next time they are in practice.
“However, if you will not be in the practice again, or not within a suitable time period, then an internal referral may be appropriate,” Mr Leonard highlighted.
The AOP has developed an internal referral template that locum optometrists can use to refer patients to another practitioner within the practice for follow up tests and management.
This template enables optometrists to formally pass on responsibility for any procedures or ongoing management of the patient.
The referral can be printed off and attached to the patient’s record if the practice uses a paper-based system or imported to a patient’s record if an electronic system is in use.
A copy of the letter should be given to the resident optometrist or practice manager, while the AOP also recommends giving a copy of the internal referral to the patient – in the same way that the patient might be provided with an external referral letter.
“An internal referral completes the legal sight test for the practitioner but leaves the contractor or practice owner with a duty to carry out certain further procedures,” Mr Leonard explained.
He added that this process is generally not appropriate for urgent procedures.
“If you feel the patient needs urgent investigation which you are unable to provide yourself at the time, you should refer the patient to secondary care instead,” Mr Leonard said.