Optical colleges share joint vision for eye care beyond COVID-19

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the College of Optometrists have published a series of recommendations for the delivery of eye care during and beyond the pandemic

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Getty/Thomas Northcut
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the College of Optometrists have developed a joint vision for the delivery of “safe and sustainable” eye care in England during and beyond the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The two colleges pointed to the delays in treatment in the hospital eye service (HES) that existed before the pandemic, highlighting that the current measures in place to protect people from COVID-19, “will undoubtedly lead to vision loss that in normal circumstances, would have been preventable, as additional safety measures will further reduce capacity.”

With restrictions lifting, the associations emphasised a need to develop “more integrated eye care between hospital eye service, community settings and primary care optometry” as well as to build on and expand the COVID-19 urgent eye care service (CUES).

The two associations shared their vision for “the provision of pathways that ensure patients are prioritised based on their clinical need and to receive care that is appropriate and accessible.”

This would be provided by multidisciplinary professionals, working collaboratively across primary care, community and hospital settings.

“Managing patients in this way during COVID-19 recovery and beyond will help to support and facilitate the development of primary care and community services with close links to the hospital eye service (HES). This will enable all patients to have equitable access to the eye care that they need at the time it is needed and avoid unnecessary visits to the HES,” the statement continued.

The two organisations have formed a series of recommendations suggesting that those working in the provision of eye care should put these principles and recommendations in place, “to enable the development of safe and sustainable patient care and professional support in the delivery of that care.”

The recommendations include commissioning key pathways and the foundation of long-term service frameworks. Within the suggestions around service framework, the recommendations cover professional development and upskilling, pathways and models of care, funding, referrals, governance, and COVID-19 and infection control.

The colleges also recommended that the key pathways commissioned should include; urgent eye care, referral triage or advice and guidance, primary care-based management for new, low risk patients, management of postponed HES patients with unplanned issues and interim or joint care of HES patients.

The pathways would be mapped out and agreed with stakeholders through the NHS England/Improvement National Outpatient Transformation Programme and the Eye Care Restoration and Transformation Steering Group, the organisations suggested.