The Welsh Government has announced that it will launch its first-ever eye care campaign across the country this month.Designed to encourage members of the public to visit their local accredited Welsh Eye Care Service (WECS) optometrist, the establishment of the ‘Choose well’ initiative was marked with deputy health and social services minister, Vaughan Gething, visiting an optometrist in Cardiff.
Launching the campaign on Monday (13 April), which sees the Welsh government urge members of the public to visit an opticians for acute eye care rather than their GP or A&E, Mr Gething explained: “If you have a sudden eye problem, in many cases, your local optician is often the best place for you to go, not A&E or a pharmacist. Optometrists are the experts.“Your local High Street optometrist can give you expert advice on eye problems that need urgent attention and the best way to treat them. They have better equipment than GP surgeries for examining eyes.”
Evidence suggests patients are often unaware of the full range of healthcare services which optometrists can provide in Wales and instead visit an emergency department or dial 999. This is reinforced by statistics which show a 205% rise in calls to the ambulance service since 1991, and a 7% increase in attendances to major emergency departments across Wales over the last five years.
Practices across Wales will be encouraged to display a series of posters and leaflets which have been produced by the Welsh Government. They will also receive a press briefing pack which includes template press releases for the local press, GP surgeries and pharmacists.
The year-long campaign has been developed to focus on more than just acute eye care. Split into four phases, areas highlighted throughout the year will include advice for people with diabetes, smokers, and black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. It is supported by Optometry Wales, Sight Cymru, Wales Council for the Blind, RNIB Cymru, and Public Health Wales.
Commenting on the campaign, chief executive of Optometry Wales, Sali Davis, said: “This really is a landmark in terms of the profile of eye care in Wales. This funded campaign reflects the value that our devolved government places in community-based optometry.”