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Gower practice eyes national title

Laura sat at her desk

A Swansea Bay optician is in the running to be named the best practice in Wales.

Gower Opticians, based in Penclawdd, is one of three finalists hoping to be named practice of the year at the Optometry Wales Awards.

The independent practice, which opened six years ago, is home to the health board’s first optometrist to become an independent prescriber.

Laura Davies (pictured) gained the additional qualification which allows her to diagnose, manage and treat a number of eye conditions.

Her qualification helps to prevent hospital referrals and means patients can receive their care closer to home.

“It covers certain conditions that we can manage locally in the community, which has been a huge benefit to our patients,” Laura said.

“The more patients that can be managed within primary care, the better it is for them and for secondary care staff who can spend their time seeing other patients.”

Laura and Francesca stood in front of a cabinet

A common misconception can be that your local optometrist purely offers vision checks and prescribes and fits glasses.

However, they have the expertise and specialist equipment to treat a range of eye problems and even help detect and prevent serious eye conditions.

Primary care optometrists in Wales will soon be able to treat and monitor a wider range of eye conditions.

This will help to reduce waiting times for patients, as well as ease pressure on staff delivering eye care services in hospitals.

Laura added: “We offer a huge array of services. There are many new treatments available now compared to some years ago.

“There are many conditions managed by secondary care that can be managed in primary care by independent prescribing optometrists. This gives the hospital staff more time to do the things that only they can do.

“Optometrists can help with any sudden changes with patients’ eyes or with their vision and help those patients experiencing new headaches for example.

“If there are any changes to the eyes or vision, we as optometrists should be the first port of call.”

Pictured: Laura with dispensing specialist Francesca Oak.

Throughout Wales some optometrists, including Laura, are also accredited to offer the Low Vision Service which supports people who find it difficult to see things, even when wearing the correct glasses.

The service can help them by offering things like magnifiers, lamps, tinted glasses or just by providing specialist advice.

Laura explained the practice has even been successful in becoming dementia friendly, which has seen improvements made to signage and lighting and staff undergo specific training.

The practice now offers longer appointments at quieter times of the day to help patients with dementia and autism to feel more comfortable.

Staff will be hoping for more success by being named practice of the year at the Optometry Wales Awards, held in Cardiff in November.

“We have only been open for six years so it’s a really exciting opportunity,” Laura said.

“To be named as one of the three finalists in Wales is quite an honour.

“It raises awareness of what practices are doing for the benefit of patients and ultimately lets the public know that there are many ways in which we can help them.”

Laura looking at a scan on the computer

Pictured: Local optometrists can treat a range of eye problems and even help detect and prevent serious eye conditions.

Gower Opticians is part of the Llwchwr Local Cluster Collaborative (LCC), which covers the Pontarddulais, Gorseinon, Gowerton and Penclawdd areas of Swansea.

Each cluster is made up of GP practices, dentists, opticians, community pharmacists, allied health professionals and health sciences, community nursing, medicines management, mental health services and the voluntary sector.

Together they work with the health board and other partners to enhance the health and well-being of their local population.

Dr James Kerrigan, Llwchwr LCC lead, said: “Llwchwr LCC is delighted our primary care colleagues at Gower Opticians have been shortlisted as finalists for Practice of the Year 2023.

“Having gained a reputation for providing consistently excellent customer service Laura, Francesca and the rest of the team have firmly established themselves as front runners for the title award.

“We wish them every success in the forthcoming Optometry Wales Awards.”

Sam Page, Swansea Bay’s head of primary care, said: “Optometrists in primary care are able to treat a wide range of eye conditions, which enables patients to receive their eye care closer to home.

“We will also be implementing the Eye Care Reform Programme in Swansea Bay in the coming months, which will see the Independent Prescriber Service become more widely available to patients.

“This will continue to help reduce waiting times for patients, as well as the need for them to be referred to hospital for their eye care.”

Once implemented, patients will be able to be referred to the Eye Care Reform Programme by an NHS optician.

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