Optometrists to carry out more treatments in Suffolk eye care overhaul to reduce hospital burden

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Plans to overhaul eye care services in Ipswich and east Suffolk have been given the green light in a bid to reduce demand on Ipswich Hospital.

Under the current system, eye care services are carried out by community providers and Ipswich Hospital, with the hospital predominantly carrying out acute and emergency procedures.

But under the new scheme, which represents a complete overhaul of eye treatment in the eastern part of the county, patients will be able to see their optometrists for more services.

The system will feature a single point of referral, while consultants will carry out training to upskill local optometrists to enable more treatments.

Plans were approved at the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) meeting last week.

Dr David Egan, GP ophthalmology lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG said: “This new model for eye care represents a positive step forward for ophthalmology services in east Suffolk.

“The proposals will see greater collaborative working between Ipswich Hospital ophthalmology consultants and community providers, with the ambition of consultant-led care being delivered more locally and conveniently for patients and away from the hospital environment.

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“Input from patients has been integral to the development of these plans. We have worked closely with local optometric professionals and Ipswich Hospital consultants to ensure eye care services can be improved for the benefit of local people.”

Health bosses hope the new scheme will address some of the problems under the previous system, including a lack of flexibility of services, a lack of system-wide accountability and an inequality in how patients access services.

The report prepared for last week’s meeting said that hospitals are experiencing long waiting lists and a high demand, with minor eye care services among those which health chiefs believe can be delivered elsewhere.

First and follow-up appointments are among those which are considered oversubscribed.

The report added that an aging population where eye problems were common had also meant a change was needed.