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Paging an optometrist to the A&E

Moorfields Eye Hospital A&E doctor foresees optometrists forging new careers in eye casualty departments

Accident and emergency

Optometrists keen for a future in emergency eye care will find a supportive figure in Moorfields Eye Hospital consultant ophthalmologist, Seema Verma.

Moorfields already has four optometrists working in eye casualty, the A&E service director told the audience at the Hospital Optometrists Annual Conference (7–9 October, Stratford upon Avon).

Following the successful trial of an urgent care clinic, Ms Verma sees an opportunity for more optometrists to join A&E teams in future as demands for hospital services rise.

The initiative triaged patients out of A&E and invited those with symptoms lasting four weeks or more and no sudden loss of vision to attend an evening urgent care clinic if they chose.

At the clinic, optometrists worked alongside consultant ophthalmologists to diagnose, treat and discharge or refer patients to a specialist clinic. Patients also rated the clinics a success, with many saying they were likely to recommend the service, Ms Verma highlighted, adding: “I think this is the way forward.”

With the number of patients visiting the Moorfields A&E department growing by 6–8% every year, the support of optometrists will be required through the entire eye hospital service, she emphasised.

In 2015–16, a total of 103,926 patients used Moorfields eye casualty services.

“We need to look for value for money, while ensuring the quality of service is good. We need cooperation between all eye care professions, but most of all we need targeted teaching and training for optometrists,” she emphasised.

As a taster of the ocular conditions seen by A&E clinicians, Ms Verma presented a number of case studies to the conference audience, highlighting the importance of a full history-taking and an inquisitive mindset for a correct diagnosis.

She also encouraged hospital practitioners, especially those curious about a future in A&E and general ophthalmology, to consider becoming a member of the British Emergency Eye Care Society.

“I hope many optometrists will join,” she concluded.

Image credit: Flickr / Lydia_shiningbrightly