New measures have been introduced to help patients with emergency eye problems, reducing the need for them to attend hospital during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Backed by up to £3 million of SNP Government funding, Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres have been established in all health board areas.
The NHS Ayrshire and Arran facility has been set up in University Hospital Ayr, Suite B.
After a telephone consultation, some patients may be referred to optometrists within the treatment centres who can manage a wide range of conditions without further involvement from GPs or hospitals.
In Grampian and Forth Valley, live video and audio feeds between the centres and consultants in hospitals are also being piloted to enable more patients to be immediately diagnosed and treated. If successful, video triaging could be rolled out across other health board areas.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP said:
“While services have changed dramatically over the last few weeks, my message is clear; if you are worried about your health in any way, please get in touch with your GP. The same applies to your vision; if you have experienced any problems with your sight, please contact your local high street optician as soon as possible.
“I thank our NHS Boards and the optometry and ophthalmology professions for their excellent collaboration in establishing, at pace, more than 50 Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres across Scotland to manage patients without COVID-19 symptoms who need an emergency face-to-face consultation.
“Some NHS Boards are also using innovative new tele-ophthalmology technology. This means that more patients can be immediately diagnosed and treated in a community setting while benefiting from the expertise of the secondary care ophthalmology team.”
Patients without COVID-19 symptoms are referred for an emergency face-to-face consultation after a telephone triage or consultation with a community optometrist. Only the Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres will examine patients face-to-face.
Kenneth Gibson MSP commented:
“During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, people with eye care issues will have missed out on their routine appointments as of 23 March.
“Since that time, community optometry practices have continued to provide emergency and essential eye care services to patients, enabled by a package of financial support measures from the SNP Government. This includes provision of monthly average practice income from NHS services, as well as up to £3 million for emergency and essential eye care services.
“All Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres, including the one in Ayrshire, have been provided with the Personal Protection Equipment required to keep patients and practitioners safe.”