Focus sharpens on new era of eye care in Island

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A new approach to providing eye care services to the Island in the future is being saluted during Vision Awareness Week 2018, which is currently underway.

The Department of Health and Social Care has worked closely with local charities and optometrists to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve all aspects of the Island’s vision services.

The collaboration of public, private and third sectors was launched in 2016 by the then Health Minister Howard Quayle. The partners have carried out a top-to-bottom review of services offered at Noble’s Hospital, the Island’s links with specialist hospitals in the UK and the scope for high street optometrists to expand their range of services.

A draft strategy set the direction for eye health services now and into the future, and a number of its key aims are being progressed:  

  • the eye clinic has been reconfigured with the introduction of clinical nurse specialists and healthcare technicians in ophthalmology
  • developments in the macular service mean more patients can have their treatment on-Island compared to this time last year, with moves for the service to be solely delivered on-Island by November
  • optometrists to make direct referrals to Noble’s ophthalmology service from 1 October
  • waiting lists reduced from two years to 13 months due to changes in list management

Also on the agenda are plans for a new Minor Eye Conditions Scheme (MECS) which will allow high street optometrists to provide services currently provided by GP surgeries and pharmacies.  

Health and Social care Minister David Ashford said:

‘These moves are in response to the growing needs of our population. Noble’s Ophthalmic Service currently offers more than 12,000 appointments a year and we expect to see demand rise steadily as in common with the UK, we have an ageing population, and sight problems increase with age. Providing care in the community for those who no longer need consultant-led care in hospital makes sense. Utilising the skill set of trained optometrists and upskilling our own staff is progressive and will help make the very best use of resources.’

He added:

‘We’ve built on a long tradition of working closely with charities, including Manx Blind Welfare Society and the Royal National Institute for the Blind. We’ve also formed strong links with the private sector, as high street optometrists have a major role to play in future services. They’ve been important and valued partners in developing our strategy.’

Manx Blind Welfare Society is running a number of events throughout the week (9-16 September) to raise awareness of its work and the challenges faced by people with sight problems. More than 100 people took part in last Sunday’s Coast to Coast walk, while on Bright for Sight day this Friday (14 Sept) the public are invited to wear something colourful for the day and donate to the charity.  

CEO Ian Cooil said:

‘We gave input to the draft strategy over a lengthy period and we’re happy that our views have been heard. The final draft was discussed at an open meeting of the Society, where all stakeholders as well as patients were able to feedback their views to senior DHSC staff.’

He added:

‘The process is an outstanding example of the benefits of bringing professionals from the various sectors to strengthen and improve aspects of health care for the Manx nation. Vision Awareness Week 2018 is the perfect platform to mark that achievement.’

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