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Optometrists will sharpen their skills to help deliver care closer to home

Laura looking at a scan on the computer

Changes to eye care services will see more patients able to receive their care closer to home rather than going to hospital.

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.

The Welsh Government recently set out plans to upskill optometrists to provide an independent prescribing service, which will be rolled out across the country.

The independent prescribing qualification allows optometrists to diagnose, manage and treat a number of urgent eye conditions.

It helps prevent referrals to hospital services, as more patients can be seen within primary care.

Gower Opticians, in Penclawdd, has already been delivering the service for some time with Laura Davies (pictured) being the first optometrist to become an independent prescriber in the health board area.

The service will be developing in Swansea Bay, in line with the Welsh Government’s objectives.

Optometrists will need to complete a training course approved by the General Optical Council before they can deliver the service.

Community optometrists will have a directory of who in the area is able to prescribe and will be able to refer patients where appropriate, following their appointment with them.

Sam Page, the health board’s Head of Primary Care, said: “The Independent Prescribing Optometric Service (IPOS) has been launched nationally and will be introduced within Swansea Bay.

“The long-term aim is to have more optometrists within the community with the qualification, who can provide the service.

“Ultimately, the Welsh Government’s aim is to have all optometrists gain this qualification.

“This will benefit patients who can present within primary care instead of having to go into a secondary care environment or to their GP for an acute prescription.”

Each independent prescriber will choose certain eye conditions they want to specialise in, which will increase over time.

Once qualified, they can prescribe treatment for those conditions within their recognised area of expertise.

The conditions can include conjunctivitis, dry eye, glaucoma, post-cataract conditions and corneal abrasion, among others.

The changes will bring optometry in line with community pharmacy which also places an emphasis on supporting more patients in the community.

Mohammed Islam, one of the health board’s optometric advisors, said: “The pathway offers numerous advantages to practitioners and the communities they serve.

“As a practising independent prescribing optometrist, I have observed how this service enhances patient care by allowing optometrists to manage and prescribe medications for various conditions without hospital referral.

“This allows efficient, personalised care closer to home, reducing the burden on secondary services.

“These pathways enable optometrists to fully utilise their expertise, make clinical decisions, and build trust with patients, meeting the evolving needs of eye care and ensuring patient-centred care is readily available."

It is hoped this approach will help to reduce the demand for hospital intervention, reducing the backlog of patients waiting to be seen or for the need for a referral to their GP.

It also means secondary care staff can spend their time seeing patients requiring more specialist treatment.

Sam added: “Primary care optometrists are already able to treat and support patients with a range of eye conditions.

“The national rollout of IPOS will only add to this, enabling even more patients to receive treatment at their local opticians and reducing the need to go to hospital.

“Not only will this benefit patients who can receive their care closer to home, but it will also help to ease pressure on other healthcare staff.”

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