Patient safety alert – referrals for eye care services in England

A statement from the optical sector information and IT committee

In some areas optical practices have incorrectly been informed that paper referrals will be rejected due to a misunderstanding about local electronic referral systems.

Rejecting referrals has the potential to put a patients’ eye or general health at risk.

The optical sector fully supports two-way IT connectivity between primary eye care and the rest of the NHS for the benefit of all patients. The sector has been calling for this for over two decades as it will improve patient care for all. It is also a key enabler for eye care transformation at all levels.

However, new processes must be implemented carefully and in a programmed way, with agreement from all parties. It is imperative that patient referrals are not delayed or overlooked as a result of misunderstandings within newly formed ICSs.

Please note nothing has yet been agreed nationally on systems, funding, or phasing out or retaining paper referrals. Paper systems currently remain in place because there is no single safe IT solution to effectively manage referrals. At this time paper referrals continue to provide an important safety net in case of IT failure and serve as a back-up to ensure patient safety.

If your practice is contacted about local plans to reject paper referrals please email your representative body and medical malpractice provider as soon as possible to raise this risk.

For more information please contact AOP Clinical and Professional Director: [email protected]

Note to editors

The sector Information and IT Committee is a joint committee of the national optical representative bodies including ABDO, AOP, College of Optometrists, FODO – The Association for Eye Care Providers, OSA, LOCSU, OW, OS, ONI, PMS providers and digital manufacturers.  It provides an inclusive forum for anyone in the UK optical sector who has an interest in IT, information, uses of information, data ownership, data security, data standards and systems.  It helps the national bodies and the sector in its collective parts formulate strategy, policy and collective actions.


ABDO: [email protected]
AOP: [email protected] 
FODO: [email protected] 
LOCSU: [email protected]