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Practices encouraged to get involved in Optometry First testing

NHS England will work with a small number of systems to test the model, with optical bodies urging practices to get involved if their area is selected

optometry equipment
Pexels/Karolina Grabowska
Optical bodies have urged practice teams to get involved in NHS England’s tests of the Optometry First model of care if their area is selected for testing.

To support the National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme, optical bodies have worked with NHS England to develop the Optometry First model.

The model would deliver first-contact care through primary eye care practitioners and would be commissioned at scale, using a consistent service specification.

NHS England is now seeking to test the model, working intensively with a small number of systems, “with a view to strengthening the evidence base and demonstrating a route to scaling up across England.”

The optical bodies highlighted that “the willingness of primary eye care to participate is a key criteria for Integrated Care System (ICS) selection.”

They added: “Therefore, we are urging practices and their whole practice teams to demonstrate their willingness by getting involved if their area is selected to test this new model of care.”

Practices are encouraged to contact their Local Optical Committees in the first instance for further information, who will be linked with the ICS, Local Optical Committee Support Unit, and representative organisations. 

Practitioners interested in learning more about Optometry First can apply for an account on the FutureNHS Collaboration Platform and view the Optometry First Toolkit. 

Optometry First: Employing the key skills of optometrists

NHS England’s National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme encourages commissioners to recognise the full scope of clinical skills in primary eye care, with the expansion of care outside of hospital settings key to the vision.

This is driven by the need to tackle outpatient waiting times and hospital capacity pressures, which have significantly increased during the pandemic.

The outpatient transformation programme also seeks to “eliminate the risks of avoidable sight loss,” optical bodies shared, and bring integrated care closer to home “for an ageing population.”

The model builds on the COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service and aims to extend the scope of care available in primary eye care, enhance patient experiences and opportunity for self-care, and help to improve efficiency and accuracy of case-finding.

Discussing the service, the optical bodies noted: “The model employs the core competencies of optometrists, dispensing opticians and their whole practice team, supported by higher qualified primary care practitioners and the multidisciplinary hospital ophthalmology team, where necessary, across a network of local optometric practices and the hospital eye services.”

In December, LOCSU delivered a webinar event on the topic of How to build an Optometry First service, offering an introduction to the clinical model. Read more about the webinar on OT.