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Optometry scheme leads to reduction in hospital referrals

Written by on 18th February 2021

A pioneering optometry scheme is reducing hospital referrals and allowing patients to be treated closer to home during the pandemic.

Patients in RCT, Merthyr and Bridgend are benefitting from the Optometry Independent Prescribing scheme which has allowed seven optometrists across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board area to utilise their skills as qualified Independent Prescribers.

This additional training and qualification allows Optometrists to provide a higher level of eye care, enabling them to prescribe medication directly to patients without needing to refer them on to hospital or GP services.

Timothy Palmer, Independent Optometry Advisor at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said:

“In Cwm Taf Morgannwg seven optometrists have undertaken the independent prescribing qualifications which allows them to diagnose, treat, and if necessary write a prescription to manage an eye condition.”

“Since the service began in October last year, over 400 patients have been treated by Independent Prescribers with 95% of them avoiding referral to the GP or the hospital.

“This means around 250 appointments have been saved already in hospital departments. During the pandemic this has been particularly important and has helped the hospital departments at a time when many of them are already overstretched. It also allows the hospital eye department to prioritise patients with complex eye conditions while other patients are managed closer to their home, safely and conveniently.”

Owain Mealing is one of the Optometrists who took the qualification. He said:

“Previously we would detect an eye condition and then have to refer on to the hospital for treatment, whereas with the Independent Prescriber qualification we are able to detect the condition, diagnose it and manage it to completion, so that the patients are then better without having to go to the hospital to see a doctor. We keep them in the community and it’s nice to have that holistic approach where we can see them from start to finish.

“Independent prescribing has brought a big increase to my skill set in terms of diagnosing patients who come through the door, the confidence that you can see them from start to finish so that you are not reliant on the doctors to give you feedback first, and the job satisfaction is fantastic because you are treating the condition from start to finish.

“It’s hugely beneficial to all the patients because they have to travel considerably less far to get to a hospital for treatment. The waiting time in the clinic is usually quite a lot less, there is less reliance on public transport. It seems to be that they are very happy with coming locally to see a clinician who is going to fix their eye problem.”

There are seven Independent Prescribing Optometrists in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg area. To access the service speak to your local optometrist.

To help ease the pressures on GP surgeries and remind patients of the many different ways they can access advice and support, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board are currently promoting the ‘Your Local Team’ campaign which highlights primary care services and how patients can access healthcare during the pandemic.

The campaign focuses on the many different primary care services available to patients close to their home.