Investing in IT infrastructure for the NHS

Our recommendation for joined up primary and secondary care systems

Optometrist looking at patient's eyes on the computer

Every patient deserves a speedy diagnosis and access to treatment at the earliest opportunity. Yet currently there are over 600,000 patients awaiting an ophthalmology appointment, with no sign of this abating. Our economic analysis of what the ophthalmology backlog is costing the NHS provides cost effective solutions that community optometry is poised to deliver. But success rests on an IT infrastructure that connects primary and secondary care.

Around 20 million sight tests are carried out each year by optometrists, and these tests produce valuable data points on a patient’s health history and condition. But currently there is no way for optometrists to share this data with others in primary care or secondary care consultants.

This leads to prolonged waits for diagnosis as well as unnecessary referrals into hospital because the data captured in one place is simply inaccessible to the clinicians based in another.

Our recommendation

The next government should support the roll out of an Electronic Referral Service (ERS) to all optometric practices to create a national referral system. 86% of our members agree that access to patient records in this way would speed up diagnosis. GPs already use this system as well as many secondary care providers which allows for large file image sharing and synchronous (real time) communication between practitioners.