Extend the scope of community eye care services

Our recommendation for minor, urgent and glaucoma eye care pathways

Patient having an eye test

Every patient has the right to access high-quality, specialist eye care quickly and close to their home. In the areas where they have been commissioned, Minor Eye Care Services (MECS) and Community Urgent Eye Services (CUES) are providing a vital service by treating many patients presenting with eye health issues without the need for referral to secondary care. Working alongside other registered clinical colleagues in practice, such as dispensing opticians, the team can effectively triage and treat a wide range of eye conditions outside hospital.

A study in Hereford in 2022 shows that 92% of referrals to eye casualty by GPs could have been seen in optometric practice via MECS and 83% of self-referrals to eye casualty could have been seen in MECS. These findings are reflected in many other locations. But currently MECS and CUES are optionally commissioned services by Independent Care Systems (ICS) – and are difficult or impossible to access in some areas of the UK.

Furthermore, glaucoma monitoring schemes run in community optometry are shown to reduce pressure on hospital eye departments, while also creating an estimated cost saving to the NHS in excess of 90m by 2030. Our position statement The role of optometry in revolutionising glaucoma care sets this out in more detail.

Our recommendation

The next government needs to utilise optometry on the High Street to provide more care closer to home, and support the call for consistent commissioning of community eye services to end the postcode lottery of eye care. Using optometrists to provide extended eye care services in the community will reduce the burden on GPs and secondary care waiting lists, and is a pragmatic next step to improved eye care access and health outcomes for patients.


1. MacIsaac, J. C., Naroo, S. A., & Rumney, N. J. (2022). Analysis of UK eye casualty presentations. Clinical and Experimental Optometry, 105(4), 428–434.