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Success for community eye care schemes

Research papers demonstrate the achievements of community eye care

Person has sight tested

Two research papers published this month highlight how community eye care schemes are proving successful, enabling optometrists to provide cataract, glaucoma and primary eye care services to patients safely and effectively.

In the first paper, an Evaluation of a minor eye conditions scheme delivered by community optometrists, an in-depth analysis is given of the establishment of a Minor Eye Conditions Scheme (MECS) in south-east London. Published in BMJ Open, the paper draws on comparisons from a neighbouring area that does not offer MECS, and reports a 26.8% reduction in first attendance referrals to hospital ophthalmology departments by GPs.

The second paper provided a first systemic review of the evidence of the effectiveness of community eye care schemes and was published in the journal Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics. The paper reported that enhanced services do reduce unnecessary referrals for suspected glaucoma in secondary care. It also found that optometrists worked safely to maintain or improve the quality of outcomes for patients.

Director of research at the College, Mike Bowen, said: “This research, which is part of the College’s Enhanced Scheme Evaluation Project, provides some of the most thorough evidence yet for the viability, effectiveness and potential cost savings of these schemes.”

He added: “A number of MECS schemes have been launched across the UK and have demonstrated clinical safety, reduced hospital eye service referrals, high patient satisfaction and GP trust. However, there is limited evidence on the cost effectiveness of such schemes and this important research will contribute to this body of evidence.”

“Hopefully, these findings will encourage commissioners to replicate these services in appropriate parts of the country, taking advantage of the likely costs savings and reducing the pressure being experienced by often overwhelmed hospital eye service,” Mr Bowen concluded.

Image credit: College of Optometrists