Standard clinical specification launched for community minor and urgent eye care

The specification is designed to support local optical committees and local commissioners in providing services, improving consistency and informing delivery

A pen rests on top of a notebook
Pexels/Mohammad Danish

A new standard clinical specification for community minor and urgent eye care services has been published.

The specification, which was produced following a request from the Department of Health and Social Care in September 2023, aims to support and enhance access to minor and urgent eye care across England.

The clinical and quality standards outlined in the specification are designed to support local optical committees (LOCs) and local commissioners in providing services for patients; improving consistency and reducing unwarranted variation.

The specification was developed by the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) in partnership with the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC).

Primary care minister, Andrea Leadsom, commented: “This Government is working hard to reduce pressure on the NHS and improve patient outcomes – including exploring a greater role for community optometry.”

This is why the Government requested a specification, she said, adding: “This will help local commissioners get the best outcomes if they choose to commission these services as part of their local eye care provision.”

Expressing gratitude to the project leads, Leadsom also thanked “our hardworking optometrists delivering important frontline eye care on our High Streets for those that need it.”

The clinical specification was developed through sector-wide collaboration, using an evidence-based approach, and learnings from established minor and urgent primary eye care services, as well as expert opinions.

Wojciech Karwatowski, chair of CCEHC, commented: “The clinical and quality standards set out in the specification are designed to support local commissioners in their task of improving eye health and providing high quality clinical care for patients.”

Zoe Richmond, LOCSU clinical director, commented that the new clinical specification provides local leaders with “an opportunity to improve access to minor and urgent eye care on the High Street, delivering optimal first-contact care with better utilisation of the highly qualified workforce available in optometric practice.”

Richmond explained that the specification is deliberately “high level,” setting out the standard of care to be expected, while allowing for flexibility to respond to local needs and provide opportunities for growth.

“Through this work we aim to build on the well-developed pockets of excellence in England, helping to improve consistency, reduce unwarranted variation and encourage a cycle of continuous improvement,” she added.      

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the College of Optometrists provided clinical endorsement of the specification.

Professor Ben Burton, president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, shared support for the specification, adding: “Improving digital connectivity between optometry and ophthalmology will be crucial to this model succeeding and reducing pressure on hospital eye services, GPs and local A&E departments.”

Burton emphasised that emergency eye care departments in hospitals need to be properly resourced, “so that timely care with the right specialist is available for patients whose acute condition could be sight or life threatening.”

“It is vital that all pathways are led by the highest standards of clinical governance and underpinned by appropriate outcome measures,” he said.

The Community Minor and Urgent Eye Care Clinical Specification can be read in full online.