Optometry Scotland establishes Expert Working Group

Press release                                                                                                 October 2020

 Health experts review focus on Community Eyecare

An expert working group has been set to review the performance of Scotland’s community eyecare services and explore ways to maintain and enhance service delivery.

Over the next three months it will reflect on the achievements of Scotland’s universal entitlement for free eyecare and the performance of community optometry services across Scotland before and during the COVID-19 crisis.

The group comprises a broad range of healthcare and academic professionals including representatives from Optometry Scotland, Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Scottish Dental Practice Committee, Macular Scotland, Community Pharmacy Scotland, the Vision Research Group at Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Aberdeen’s Head of Economics and a consultant ophthalmologist from Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS.  The group will also reach out to other experts and to the industry for input before it reaches its conclusions.

Julie Mosgrove – chair of the working group and vice-chair of Optometry Scotland – said the working group’s research and recommendations will pave the way for the evolution of community eyecare services in Scotland.

She explained: “The objective of the working group is to further advance the first-class work of the optometry sector in Scotland, which is widely recognised for the crucial role it plays in the prevention agenda through the early detection of associated conditions and reducing  the burden on hard-pressed  hospital services.  To undertake a review at such a busy time for health services is challenging but as part of the wider remobilisation of primary care in Scotland, it is a critical moment in reviewing how Community Eyecare can maintain Scotland’s eye health whilst working more closely with Community Health, Social Care and  third sector colleagues in meeting wider public health needs.

“Now is the time to reflect on what has been achieved so far through the General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) contract, discuss the current model and explore ways in which services can be enhanced.”

The optometry sector makes a major contribution to community health, delivering more than 2 million NHS funded eye examinations each year.

Throughout lockdown it provided emergency and essential eyecare services to communities across Scotland and established Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres (EETCs) through collaborative working with the Scottish Government and its range of financial support measures to ensure sustainability of practices and provision of these vital services.

Optometry Scotland collected data from a sample of 143 practices between 23 March and 11 May which revealed that, during the five peak weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, these practices alone, met the needs of more than 74,000 patients – with fewer than 5 per cent requiring referral to the EETCs for additional care.    .

Julie Mosgrove added: “During this period much has been learned about the critical role community eyecare played, and will continue to offer, as we navigate our way out of the pandemic.

“This is a crucial time to reflect on the sector’s service provision, achievements and the vital support it provides in easing pressure from other areas of the NHS – and most importantly look at what it has the potential to achieve in future with a sustainable  model that reflects its contribution.”

The working group will examine evidence and call for expert input between now and the end of December, when it will produce a report and recommendations for the Scottish Government’s consideration in early January.