OS Press Release – Expert report could pave the way for world class community eyecare in Scotland – March 2021

Press release                                                                                                 March 2021 

Expert report could pave the way for world class community eyecare in Scotland

Recommendations for futureproofing and enhancing community eyecare in Scotland have been presented to the Scottish Government by Optometry Scotland.

The non-profit making organisation says the country has an opportunity to build a world-class service using the findings of the new policy report, which has been produced by an Expert Working Group comprising a broad range of healthcare and academic professionals.

The group spent three months examining the performance of community optometry before and during the COVID-19 crisis. They concluded that Scotland needs an improved infrastructure for equality of eyecare in home settings and remote and rural communities, as well as improved coordination and cooperation with the third sector and social and community care providers.

The Expert Working Group for Primary Eyecare Services Report also says technological innovation, greater consistency in equipment standards and enhanced training are key to enhancing the provision of optometry services within primary care in the future.

Julie Mosgrove, chair of the working group and vice chair of Optometry Scotland, said: “Scotland is the only part of the UK to provide free universal NHS funded eye examinations and it’s clear we have a real opportunity to now build on this and establish a service that is truly world class.

“The positive impact of optometry was clear during the peak of the pandemic and demonstrated how intrinsic community eyecare is to other primary and community services. With more than two million free eye examinations delivered every year, optometry plays a crucial role in the prevention health agenda through early detection of conditions, and reduces pressure on other areas of the NHS.

“As well as assessing the suitability of the universal policy of NHS-funded eyecare in Scotland and concluding that it should absolutely be sustained, the Expert Working Group has laid out a series of enhancement recommendations to take community optometry provision to the next level.”

Integrating more fully with community health and third sector organisations will be key to enhancing not only eyecare, but primary and community healthcare as a whole.  The report revealed a sizeable number of eligible persons are not accessing the services to which they are entitled – such as more vulnerable patients, elderly or with other health issues, or those susceptible to isolation, falls or other issues relating to sensory impairment.

The report applauds successful regional eyecare schemes in Grampian, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire and Arran and calls for better service consistency across Scotland. It concludes this would help to address concerns of disparity between different areas in Scotland in accessing eyecare services and for those living in rural or remote areas who may be close to a practice, but not a hospital.

Recommendations also point to encouraging a widening of the provision of quality eyecare in a home setting, saying: “The collateral benefits of addressing visual impairment on fall prevention, dementia and other mental illnesses are already documented so finding more effective routes to care must be found to provide the quality of provision that is expected of the service.”

Julie Mosgrove added: “At the heart of the enhancement recommendations are a series of measures to improve equity and to reach the most vulnerable groups, and we also looked at training and ways to maximise core competencies.

“The group also explored ways to facilitate innovation through technology, and we want to see greater support for uptake of tech such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) machines. The importance of OCT scans lie in their preventative impact for patients, enhanced diagnosic and patient management capabilities. A universality of OCT scans could even pave the way to establishing a Scottish database of imagery from the scans.”

The Expert Working Group comprised 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 also reached out to a range of other experts before reaching its conclusions.

Optometry Scotland is now urging the Scottish Government to work closely with the organisation and other primary care providers to implement the recommendations and work towards creating an enhanced provision of optometry services for Scotland.

The full Expert Working Group for Primary Eyecare Service Report can be accessed here: Expert Working Group Report.

 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Issued by Beattie Communications

 

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Lesley Pert / 01324 602552 / 07740492333 / lesley.pert@onlybeattie.com

Rachel Connor/ 01324 602563 / rachel.connor@onlybeattie.com