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New digital systems to link up primary care optometrists with hospital teams

4th March 2021 about a 3 minute read
“This is an important step in transforming eye care services and a great example of how NHSX can help the wider NHS bring digital to the heart of care transformation.” Matthew Gould, NHSX chief executive

NHSX is leading an initiative to join up primary care eyecare services with hospital teams in a bid to improve safety and cut the number of unnecessary hospital appointments and duplicated tests for patients.

New digital systems will link up primary care optometrists with hospital ophthalmologists so they can seek advice from them in real time.

Currently some parts of the referral process between eye services are still paper-based and there is no standard system enabling optometrists to refer straight into hospital. 

High resolution images

Instead a local optometrist has to refer back to the GP who can then pass on the referral, but the systems used are not able to attach the high resolution images that hospital specialists need.

To help combat growing waiting lists for eyecare, NHSX has provided NHS regions with over £8m and dedicated support to implement new digital referral systems.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said: “These new digital systems will improve care for patients, and help eyecare professionals do their jobs more easily and effectively.

“This is an important step in transforming eye care services and a great example of how NHSX can help the wider NHS bring digital to the heart of care transformation.”

The project is a close collaboration between NHS England and Improvement’s eyecare teams and NHSX.

Pilot schemes this summer

NHS regions are looking into piloting these systems in some of their local services during 2021, with increasing numbers of patients set to benefit over the summer.

Bernard Chang, president of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said “Ophthalmologists already work collaboratively with optometrists, we just need digital technology to support and streamline the care of eye patients, many of whom are in the vulnerable, older age groups.

“The investment in new digital systems is greatly welcomed.”

Colin Davidson, president at the College of Optometrists, added: “It’s exciting to have a system that will support better integration of primary and secondary eye care services, fully utilise the high quality diagnostic imaging which primary care optometrists are able to provide and allow primary care to play a greater role in developing and providing new models of eye care.”

NHSX has worked to make it as simple as possible for regional NHS teams to procure a system that works for their region and any particular local challenges, with NHSX ensuring potential suppliers are approved and vetted nationally to reduce the burden on local procurement teams