News posted 11 December, 2020

Innovative urgent eye care service launched during COVID-19 provides care closer to home

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Manchester Royal Eye Hospital (MREH) has joined up with local optometrists in Manchester and Trafford, through Primary Eyecare Services, to deliver an innovative new service which provides urgent NHS optometry care closer to home.

The COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES) was launched in May to ensure the residents of Greater Manchester have safe, quick and easy access to urgent eye care without needing to go to hospital.

Both Manchester Health and Care Commissioning and Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group have commissioned CUES which means that patients who may normally seek urgent eye treatment at MREH’s emergency department can now contact their local optical practice instead.

CUES is delivered through the use of online and remote technology, minimising face-to-face appointments. Many optometrists in the community have the expertise and equipment to assess and diagnose eye conditions, with some obtaining prescribing qualifications to provide medication.

MREH, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust has already seen the benefits of the new service, which has significantly reduced the need to attend the hospital’s emergency department for eye issues now treated under CUES.

Mr Felipe Dhawahir-Scala, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Vitreoretinal Surgeon and Clinical Lead for the Emergency Eye Department at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital said; “We know we have a hugely talented and capable workforce in primary care optometrists, many of whom have undertaken additional training and have all the equipment needed to assess, diagnose and in many cases treat patients. The implementation of CUES has been brilliant. Optometrists are seeing patients, managing them when they can and seeking additional support when needed.

“The best part is the secure information sharing platform so we can see any images or scans taken, this allows true informed decision making. This means that we can reduce the number of patients in our emergency department, which is more important than ever, so only those with problems needing hospital care are there.

“CUES is a great example of providing more efficient care closer to home by minimising delays and reducing the need for hospital visits. Anyone who is experiencing eye related issues and in need of urgent optometry care should not delay in seeking advice and treatment.”

Thousands of residents from across Greater Manchester have benefitted from the service, with 87% of patients treated and discharged by local optometrists and 13% of patients referred for further hospital treatment.

CUES is delivered by primary care optometrists supported by hospital ophthalmology teams and commissioned locally by CCGs via the optometry federation, Primary Eyecare.

Rebecca Rietdyke local optometrist in Manchester and Trafford and Clinical Lead for Primary Eyecare Services said: “Optical practices in Manchester and Trafford have risen to the challenge to deliver the CUES service and work closely with hospital colleagues. It’s been great to be able to provide urgent eyecare from my own practice during the pandemic, knowing this has relieved pressure on the hospital eye service. Patients in the service have been really grateful to be seen at a local optical practice rather than attending the hospital.”

Dr Peter Fink, Manchester Health and Care Commissioning said; “CUES enables us to provide safe urgent eye care in the community, whilst minimising the risk of COVID-19 to patients and reducing pressure on GPs and hospital eye services.

“The service is a fantastic example of collaborative working across primary and secondary care and it is great to see it running so efficiently for the benefit of our patients. I would encourage anyone seeking urgent eye care treatment to use CUES.”

The new pathway was initially commissioned in Manchester for six months which has now been extended for a further six months.

To access the service, patients are advised to contact a participating optical practice directly to arrange an initial phone or online assessment to determine if they need a face to face appointment. See a full list of participating optical practices here and here.

The Eye Emergency Department (EED) at MREH is continuing to see emergency patients. If you are experiencing sudden loss of vision or have a serious eye injury, you should seek urgent treatment at EED. Further information can be found here.

Patient experience of CUES

61-year-old Penny Maitra benefited from CUES earlier this year after a flare up of recurrent Uveitis (inflammation of the iris). Penny would normally attend the emergency eye department at MREH for treatment but since the introduction of CUES, Penny contacted her local optician who arranged a telephone consultation.

She said: “I usually have a flare up with my Uveitis once a year and would normally visit the Eye Hospital for treatment, where I have been a patient for more than 20 years. Not wanting to attend unnecessarily during the pandemic, I contacted my local optician to see if they could confirm that it was indeed a new bout of Uveitis before heading to the Hospital.

“It was then they explained the new service to me, CUES which I have found incredibly useful to have on my doorstep. I was triaged over the phone by optometrist in Altrincham, who then booked me in for a face to face appointment the following day.

“I felt very safe and reassured at my appointment, and within the hour I had been examined, diagnosed, prescribed medication and was on my way home. The service was much more efficient and I would encourage anyone needing urgent eye treatment to use the service.

“I know more than most how important it is to diagnose and medicate eye issues quickly. CUES is local, quick, simple to access and easy to use. I would definitely use this service again and recommend to others.”

Penny was treated by an optometrist at her local Specsavers in Altrincham in July, who was able to prescribe steroid drops without the need of referring her to the emergency eye department.