The Welsh government has launched a series of pilots across the country to move eye care assessment and treatment services out of hospitals and into community settings.
The four pilots, which are being established in Gwent, Cwm Taf, West Wales and Powys, will see doctor-led services that would previously be performed in outpatient departments, delivered by optometrists and nurses, while overseen by an ophthalmologist.
Establishing the pilots to ensure that people are seen more quickly and closer to home, it is also designed to free up time to allow hospital-based ophthalmologists to manage patients with more complex conditions.
The pilots launch as part of a £40m investment from the Welsh government’s primary care fund, which aims to support the reform of Wales’ primary care services and ensure that the majority of NHS care is planned and provided in the community, closer to people’s homes.
In addition, deputy minister for health, Vaughan Gething, has approved a £105,000 funding package to upskill eye care professionals to deliver these and other new services, enabling health boards across Wales to fund a number of optometrists to study for university-level qualifications.
The Welsh Government’s primary care workforce plan sets out the importance of a skilled community workforce.
Commenting on the investment, Mr Gething said: “The investment I’m announcing today will, over time, see a significant transfer of services away from hospitals into local communities, making them more convenient for people to access and better able to provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”
He added: “The additional investment we are making in our staff will help extend the skills of optometrists and non-medical eye care professionals, ensuring they have the qualifications they need to deliver these services. This underlines our commitment to developing our staff to deliver high-quality care and treatment services.
“This will help free up doctors’ time and resources to concentrate on those people with complex conditions who need specialist intervention.”