From next month, patients will receive follow-up care and treatment in the community by an optometrist, rather than in the hospital setting. The move is designed to ensure patients are seen both more quickly and closer to home, the Welsh government said, adding that it will also free up hospital ophthalmologists’ time for patients with more complex conditions.
Deputy Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “This is the latest step in our plan to move care for people with a range of eye conditions away from hospital-based services.
“We want to make follow-up appointments and ongoing care more convenient for patients so they can access the treatment they need at the time they want.”
He added: “This will also mean doctors in hospitals have more time to concentrate on looking after and treating those people who need specialist treatment.”
Optometrists in Wales are extending the NHS services they offer in primary care as part of the Welsh Government’s Together for Health Eye Care Delivery Plan – an initiative designed to prevent avoidable sight loss, as well as improving the experience for the patient.
In addition to cataract surgery, follow-up appointments and glaucoma checks, community-based optometrists will also provide care for people with ocular hypertension.
Commenting on the announcement, Sali Davis, chief executive of Optometry Wales, told OT: "This is a great development in Wales and one that we have been working to sign-off for some time. We feel very excited about the opportunity that we have to provide first class care in a collaborative effort with our secondary care colleagues who are also supportive of this pathway."
Speaking to Wales Online, Ceri Jackson, director of RNIB Cymru, added: “What is crucial for patients with any eye condition is that we make sure they receive the right care at the right time.”
She added: “The hospital eye service is struggling to meet the demand and treat patients with conditions which require regular treatment. Therefore any improvements are encouraging and, especially for older people, moving care out into the community will make things easier for them.”