by Raymond Curran, Head of Ophthalmic Services, HSCB.
The phased return of primary care ophthalmic services will get underway in earnest from June 29.
I know there may be some patients who have concerns about attending appointments so I wanted to take this opportunity to reassure people about the work that is on-going to ensure that optometry practices and the services they provide are as safe as possible.
To begin with, patients will notice some changes as practices implement strict infection control guidelines. Optometrists in the high street, like other health care professionals, are focused on safety.
There will be a limit on the number of people allowed in the practice at any one time, the staff will be wearing masks and other protective equipment and you may be asked to come alone or, wait elsewhere until there is appropriate space in the practice or your appointment is called.
The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on the ability of optometrists to offer ‘routine’ services but optometrists continued to offer phone or video consultations for urgent eye conditions, plus small numbers of essential and urgent face-to-face consultations.
Going forward, virtual, or ‘remote’ appointments will continue to be offered when appropriate and when available. This new way of working allows you to discuss a problem with your optometrist and get help and advice without having to leave your home. Indeed, in order to reduce the length of time you spend in the practice, your optometrist may telephone you in advance of your appointment to take your history, discuss your symptoms, and work out with you what you would want to get from the appointment.
Patients with the most urgent need and eye care conditions such as reduced or changed vision and those with educational and occupational visual needs will be prioritised for appointments.
In addition, patients who have the eye condition of Ocular Hypertension (high eye pressure), and who are part of the new Optometry service to review and monitor their eye condition, will now also be offered an appointment as planned.
Appointments like these are very important and it is vital that patients attend.
Optometrists on the high street provide a very valuable service; they provide more than eye tests and checks on your spectacle prescription. Many optometrists are now supporting people who have a sudden problem that you would have perhaps previously attended eye casualty for, some who may have recently had eye surgery and, as previously explained, providing care for patients with Ocular Hypertension who require ongoing review because they are at risk of developing glaucoma.
I would encourage anyone who gets invited to an appointment to please do their very best to attend. If you have any concerns or worries about attending your optometrist please contact the practice to discuss this and the practice staff or Optometrist will provide you with the advice and support you need.