The NHS in Liverpool is proposing changes to cataract services which would allow patients to get quicker access to cataract assessments and to receive more care closer to home.
At the moment, the majority of people with suspected cataracts are referred to hospital by their optician for a cataracts assessment. If suitable, they will then have their cataract surgery and post-operative care at hospital.
NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for planning NHS services in the city, is proposing changes that would upskill opticians to carry out cataract assessments themselves, rather than sending people to hospital.
This streamlined service, which is considered best practice by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning, is available in a small number of opticians already but the intention is to make it available more widely.
Between April 2015 – March 2016, 3,806 patients had a cataract procedure but only 362 patients had their cataract assessment performed by the existing pool of trained opticians.
The CCG is also proposing that opticians are upskilled to provide routine post-operative care after people have had their cataract surgery.
Post-operative care is currently all provided in hospitals, and people who require more complex care would still go to hospital under the new system, but figures suggest around 80-90% of people would be able to receive their post-operative care from their optician.
Dr Monica Khuraijam, Clinical Lead for Planned Care at NHS Liverpool CCG, said: “People always tell us that they would like to receive more care closer to home and we think these changes would make life easier for the vast majority of cataract patients by reducing the number of trips to hospital and also speeding up their initial assessment. By enabling opticians to handle more straightforward cases, it will free up hospital eye services to care for people with more complex needs.
“It’s really important for us to understand any concerns people may have, which is why we’re asking people to share their views with us before any changes are made.”
Opticians providing this additional service will go through a training and accreditation process provided by Cardiff University and the Local Optical Committee Support Unit as well as attending a training session on administrative procedures and protocols.
The changes are not expected to cost any more money than the current cataract service and moving appointments from hospitals to opticians may in fact save the NHS money, which could then be re-invested in other NHS services. Based on current figures this saving could be around £70,000 per year.
Rupesh Bagdai, Commissioning Lead at the Local Optical Committee Support Unit, which supports the development of eye services in England, said: “Feedback from patients in other areas where similar services have been commissioned shows that they are very happy with the standard of care provided by the trained opticians and also found it more convenient to have their assessment and post-operative checks at times and locations that suit them.
“An important added benefit is that these services, when provided by community opticians, free up hospital appointments allowing people with complex eye conditions to be seen more quickly by specialists.”
From Monday 16 January – Friday 10 February local people are being invited to share their views on the proposed changes.
More information, including an online survey, is available here or by calling 0151 296 7537.
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