COVID-19 Recovery: Ophthalmology

Published: 27th May 2020
The knock-on from the pandemic will be felt particularly in specialities that saw an on-going rise in demand last year. This article looks at how NHS areas can help optometrists deliver more care in the community and reduce unnecessary strain on hospital eye services.

Last year we saw a significant rise in the number of enquiries from NHS areas keen to find out if we could help reduce Ophthalmology referrals. Why? Ophthalmology referrals to hospital eye services rose just over 12% from 2013/14 to 2017/18 and now account for just over 8% of outpatient appointments (NHS Digital).

A contributing factor to the rise in referrals can be attributed to the lack of access to advice and guidance for a large number of optometrists. Although a few of the larger High Street Optometrists have access to NHS.net, many of the smaller independents are not N3 certified and therefore have no direct access to specialist Advice & Guidance. The result pre-COVID was that that a patient might be referred straightaway or the case shared with a GP who may try to fax a test result to their local hospital. This often had a significant delay on a referral.  Now as we embrace the new ‘normal’ it’s essential that NHS areas break down any communication barriers by providing A&G access to all clinicians, not just GPs.

Eleanor Coxson, an Optometrist at the Eyesite Eyecare Centre in NHS Coventry & Rugby CCG now uses the Consultant Connect App to access advice and guidance from the local hospital when she needs it.

Eleanor explained a recent case: “The patient was suffering with chronic eyelid dermatitis and his usual treatment regime was not alleviating his symptoms. Using the Consultant Connect App provided her with a “clear treatment regime to relay to the patient.” Furthermore, she explained that “the option of including photographs or OCT images really helps to give a thorough presentation of your patient.”

Eleanor has found it “particularly helpful during the current coronavirus situation where our usual referral pathways have been disrupted; enabling me to reduce unnecessary strain upon our hospital eye service.”

Ways we can help NHS areas help optometrists and patients:

  • Providing optometrists access to rapid expert advice via Consultant Connect to help with the management of the patient – from local clinicians, or where not possible, from our National Network of out-of-area clinicians.
  • Improving direct access for patients to hospital clinicians when they need it without needing a face-to-face appointment. Find out about Patient Initiated Follow-Ups (PIFUs).

Click here to visit our downloads page to download a PDF of the above diagram.

The Consultant Connect App is a game changer. It can be accessed from anywhere (mobile or PC) without the need for N3 certification, meaning it can be rolled out rapidly across independent Optometrists. The app is intuitive and easy to use – uploading Retinal Scans, Visual fields, OCT layers etc. can be done in under 2 minutes. Consultant Ophthalmologists can review either via an internet browser or their own device, ensuring a swift response time.

Consultants have been impressed by the ease of use, and expectations are that for general A&G, their response times will be akin to the sub 4 hour benchmarks set by teams in Dermatology. Another advantage is that Consultant Connect is an end to end solution, that doesn’t rely on any other infrastructure.

Contact us on 01865 261467 or hello@consultantconnect.org.uk if you have any questions or would like to discuss the above.

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