Chairmans Update – July 2015

Chairman’s update 30/06/15

Dear colleague,

As we come into the holiday period I thought I would update you on some of the current and future work that ONI are involved with.

Much of the current work for optometry in both primary care and hospital is channelled via the “Developing Eye Care Partnerships Strategy” (DEP) where we work with many eye related stakeholders to improve eye care services and ensure that optometry plays a pivotal role.

This includes the PEARS (Primary Eye Assessment and Referral Service) which started in the Armagh/Dungannon area in September 2014. So far this has proven successful in terms of the patient satisfaction and the deflection of patients from casualty or their GP. This pilot finishes in August 2015 and will be evaluated in terms of appropriate clinical management, patient satisfaction and value for money. Over 500 patients have been seen so far with the vast majority being managed in optometric practice.

In glaucoma we are now over a year into our first Locally Enhanced Service for repeat pressure readings using goldmann. This is still working remarkably well with around 2/3 of the repeat measures taken not needing the patient to attend hospital. This has been seen as a key success for the profession in reducing unneeded hospital visits and is something we can be justifiably proud of. To have success like that is key when it comes to further negotiation of future services.

A planned next step via DEP will be to improve the referral refinement process for glaucoma further by training primary care optometrists in optic disc analysis and assessment of angles. This would of course attract a further fee.

The COSI (community optometrist with a special interest) positions started in the Shankill Health & Wellbeing centre at the end of last year under the supervision of ophthalmologists and there will be more glaucoma COSI positions in the future. I have also shared with the partners in DEP both the new SIGN guidance for glaucoma in Scotland and details of the glaucoma patient management pilot in Ayrshire where patients are seen by primary care optometrists for their pressures, fields, retinal photography, possibly OCT and other tests and these results are then sent to ophthalmology for assessment, thus ensuring the patient is seen close to home. So we have much to learn and aspire to from what has been tried successfully in other areas.

Another area that ONI is working on is the development of electronic links. This is an area that has been developed to enable the lookup facility for health care numbers and also payment of GOS. Later this year another pilot will commence in approximately 25 GOS practices across NI to send electronic referrals. The plan here is also for the optometrist to have sight of the ECR (Electronic Care Record) which will show medications and hospital results such as diabetic screening. Eventually we hope that all optometry practices will have Health & Social Care e-mail address to ensure safe transfer of information and images.

Finally, in September 2015, to coincide with National Eye Health Week, ONI will be co-ordinating an advertising and PR campaign across Northern Ireland highlighting the importance of eye examinations.

Thank you and if you have any questions on any of the above matters then please contact me.


David Barnes

Chairman, Optometry NI