“We know that people want to learn”

Deborah Armstrong, specialist optometrist at East Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, told OT  about a corneal foreign body removal workshop with Pennine Lancashire LOC

dummy practice

East Lancashire Hospital Trust’s Burnley General Hospital hosted a training session on corneal foreign body removal for members of the Pennine Lancashire Local Optical Committee (LOC).

Sponsored by Scope Ophthalmics, the workshop delivered training for 23 optometrists and two contact lens opticians.

Deborah Armstrong, specialist optometrist at East Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, told OT that the workshop came together serendipitously: “The Trust were seeing quite a few people with foreign bodies in their eyes, and almost at the same time, the LOC requested training in this area.”

The team got to work planning the training, Armstrong said, with the intention that “hopefully we’ll have fewer people in A&E, and the optometrists will be able to offer a wider service to their patients.”

The workshop began with a presentation by consultant ophthalmologist and corneal specialist Mr Hasan Usmani.

Attendees then observed demonstrations of corneal foreign body removal from animal eyes using needles and Alger brushes by consultant ophthalmologists. This was followed by supervised practice.

Organisers of the workshop said they hoped local publicity would lead to greater public awareness that patients can visit their optometrist in the case of a corneal foreign body, rather than accident and emergency.

Armstrong shared: “The local newspaper has written an article to tell patients: ‘Look, you can go to your optometrist now if this happens to you.’ So hopefully with that and social media, people will be more aware and pass the information on.”

Feedback on the workshops was really positive, Armstrong said, and the consultants were “really impressed” by how quickly attendees picked up the task.

“We’ve already got the slit lamp skills and the anatomy in our heads,” Armstrong said. “We are a very highly-skilled workforce, so really it is just a question of adding an extra skill to it.”

Before COVID-19, the hospital arranged an evening of optical coherence tomography (OCT) interpretation with lectures, which was attended by 65 people.

“We know that people want to learn,” Armstrong said. “If we can provide that education, then in return our job becomes a little bit easier, because we have more people being dealt with in primary care, rather than coming to secondary care.”

Further workshops are also planned for the future, including another evening on OCT interpretation, and education planned around glaucoma.

“There’s a real culture of learning in the hospital. Most of the doctors are training in some capacity, though they are very well-trained already, they are still training until they become consultants,” Armstrong pointed out.

Armstrong shared that LOCs are a good point of contact for optometrists keen to access further training, as they can get in touch with their local eye department.

Reflecting on the importance of this continued education, she said: “It enriches the optometrist, because the more you know, the more confident you are, and the more interesting your job is.”