Electronic Eye care Referral Service FAQs released by optical sector bodies

The EeRS system will link primary eye care with hospital ophthalmology and GP systems, allowing unnecessary referrals to hospitals to be avoided

hands and keyboard

A set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Electronic Eye care Referral System (EeRS) has been released by the Optical Sector Information and IT Committee.

EeRS is a secure electronic system for the two-way transfer of patient and clinical data, including images, between eye care services and GPs, and is part of NHS England’s 2021-22 planning guidance.

The aim of EeRS is to ensure that patients only visit hospitals when clinically necessary, with more care being provided closer to home, and that the NHS will be able to deliver eye care more efficiently and effectively, sharing large data files such as OCT for the benefit of patients.

It is designed to improve communications between primary and secondary care, leading to greater collaboration, enhanced skills, and extended primary eye care services for patients.

The NHS Long Term Plan has made reducing avoidable outpatient attendances in specialities like ophthalmology a clear priority. NHS England’s National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme, which includes EeRS, is intended to deliver this alongside other goals.

The FAQs are available on the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (Locsu) website and will be regularly updated. 

They have been designed for practice owners, practitioners, and systems suppliers in England.

The early adopter sites, where clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have awarded contracts to deliver ‘proof of concept’ EeRS systems alongside local optical practices and hospitals, are Mid Central London, Mid & South Essex, Cambridge & Peterborough, Oxford University Hospitals, and Somerset CCG.

The Optical Sector Information and IT Committee is a joint committee made up of members of the national optical representative bodies, including the AOP. The committee assists the sector on strategy and policy around issues including IT, uses of information, data ownership, data security, data standards and systems. It is currently chaired jointly by Dr Peter Hampson, clinical and professional director at the AOP, and Max Halford, clinical lead at the Association of British Dispensing Opticians.

The committee called IT connectivity “the key enabler to better patient care” that allows “more patients to be seen and treated closer to home without the need for a hospital visit.”

Hampson and Halford added that “EeRS is an important step on that journey, and we encourage everyone to participate in ‘proof of concept sites’ if they can.”

The EeRS ‘proof of concept’ sites are a first step towards supporting patients being treated in the right place, by the right service, at the right time, at all points along the eye care pathway, according to the committee.

More information, including on funding, is included in the FAQs

The Optical Sector Information and IT Committee is encouraging those already using EeRS to share their experiences by emailing the committee secretariat, the Federation of Dispensing Opticians’ Damian Testa, at [email protected]