Team work is key to making a difference to eye care delivery in Cambodia

The president of the BCLA, Professor Sunil Shah, shared stories of close collaboration between optometrists and ophthalmologists at his presidential address

Sunil Shah
There is far greater scope for improved patient outcomes when optometry and ophthalmology work together, according to the British Contact Lens Association’s (BCLA) president, Professor Sunil Shah (pictured).

Speaking to attendees at his presidential address at the Royal College of Nursing in London (2 October), the BCLA president called for “a culture of collaboration.”

The consultant ophthalmic surgeon and co-founder of Midland Eye shared stories from his career about how team work has improved patient outcomes.

He told attendees that optometrists and ophthalmologists work side by side at the Khmer Sight Foundation during volunteer trips to Cambodia.

Speaking about the charity’s work, Professor Shah said that practitioners share knowledge freely with each other in order to meet demand for eye care.

He said that in a population of 15 million people, 180,000 Cambodian people are blind and access to eye care is an issue.

There are just 38 ophthalmologists and no optometrists in Cambodia, which is why the charity has an aim to create training centres and make the country self-sufficient in providing eye care, he added.

The Khmer Sight Foundation is due to unveil a $10 million specialist charity eye hospital shortly, which Professor Shah hopes will make a significant difference.

Professor Shah also spoke about operating on children, including babies who are days old, and explained that while most surgeons will avoid operating on children this young, he takes the view that “there is very little to lose.”

He shared a story of young girl called Eva who lives with Peters plus syndrome and has received eye surgery 25 times. Despite her repeated visits, the child hugs each surgeon every time she comes in for surgery, he explained.

When speaking about operating on young children, Professor Shah said: “Although it is frequent and challenging, when it works it is incredibly rewarding.”

He added that tips are shared between specialists across the country via a WhatsApp group, who share knowledge on paediatric corneal surgery.