Colleges issue advice on sharing patient information

The College of Optometrists and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists have published advice on sharing information on a patient following referral

Exterior of the College of Optometrists' office
New advice on sharing patient information following a referral has been issued jointly by the College of Optometrists and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. 

It advises that, if a patient agrees for their clinical information to be shared, ophthalmologists will send that information to the referring optometrist.

Chief executive of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Kathy Evans, said: “People using health and social care services are entitled to expect that their personal information will remain confidential. However, people also expect professionals to share information with other members of the care team. 

“Working together as regulated professionals, ophthalmologists and optometrists operate as part of a multi-disciplinary healthcare team that delivers overall eye care services for patients, whether in the hospital or in the community. So good sharing of information, when sharing is appropriate, is as important as maintaining confidentiality and is in the patient’s best interest.”

The guidance is in line with Dame Fiona Caldicott’s Information Governance Review and is designed to improve the care of the patient by providing diagnosis and management feedback to the practitioner who referred them.

The advice also states that, unless a hospital’s policy prohibits sending copies of letters to optometrists, ophthalmologists will routinely send copies of GP letters to the referring optometrist, after confirming consent by the patient. The consent should then also be recorded in the notes.

President of the College of Optometrists, David Parkins, said: “Feedback on referrals is very important for continuity of care and to provide learning. Having this information to hand when the optometrist sees the patient again helps avoid unnecessary re-referrals and will reduce the duplication of tests.

He added: “Optometrists can help to ensure that they receive feedback by always including their name and contact details clearly on the referral letter.”