Free sight tests will be offered to Island residents every two years from 1 October 2018 in line with professional guidance on best practice and with the current regime in England, Wales and Scotland.
The change is part of the Eye Care Strategy which has been developed by the Department of Health and Social Care in partnership with local medical representatives, optometrists and third sector organisations.
Until now, the DHSC has funded sight tests for patients every year if requested, but this is more frequent than recommended by experts. Those with certain conditions will continue to have their sight monitored on an annual basis or more frequently if required, and optometrists will be free to carry out tests at different intervals if they decide it’s clinically necessary.
The change is in line with College of Optometrists recommendations and is supported by the Isle of Man Association of Optometrists and Registered Opticians.
Association chairman Ian Hodgson said:
‘By extending the standard interval between sight tests from one to two years, we’re simply implementing best practice elsewhere in the British Isles. It became clear during consultation on the strategy that the change was overdue. In future, people will be examined at the most appropriate intervals, freeing-up our capacity to help those with the greatest clinical need, and provide funded enhanced services like the Minor Eye Conditions Scheme, MECS. There’s no cause for concern, as those who need more regular tests will have them – there are many safeguards in the new regime.’
A number of other developments in eye care are in place or due to come on stream soon. A streamlined referral system allowing opticians to refer directly into Noble’s Hospital instead of via a patient’s GP will start on 1 October, as the sight test interval change takes effect. The less ‘clunky’ process aims to improve services for patients and is supported both by optometrists and GPs.
An overhaul of ophthalmology waiting lists at Noble’s Hospital has brought dramatic improvement. A single waiting list has replaced individual consultant lists, reducing the wait for an appointment from 24 months to 13 months, with scope for further reductions in future.
Elsewhere, an up-skilling initiative to establish a nurse-led service is set to expand capability and meet growing demand in the ophthalmology department. A cohort of clinical nurse specialists is currently being trained to offer a range of services, including clinics and minor operations.
In the longer term there are plans to fund high street optometrists to care for people with minor eye conditions in the community and to carry out Diabetic Retinal Screening, relieving pressure on the hospital’s ophthalmology department.