Research shows community eye care schemes are successful

New research funded by the College of Optometrists has found that enhanced eye care schemes are viewed positively by those involved, including commissioners, patients and providers.

The qualitative study, published by BMJ Open explored the views of patients, community optometrists, General Practitioners (GPs), commissioners and ophthalmologists. The research covered a minor eye conditions scheme (MECS) in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Lewisham and a glaucoma referral refinement scheme (GRRS) in Manchester. The study was conducted by researchers from City, University of London and the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and is a follow up to previous qualitative evidence also developed through the College of Optometrists’ Enhanced Scheme Evaluation Project (ESEP) also published in BMJ Open.

The latest research findings were:

  • 99 per cent of MECS patients would recommend the service.
  • 99 per cent (GRRS) and 100 per cent (MECS) of patients were satisfied with the examination conducted by their optometrist.
  • Optometric training for both schemes was valuable and appropriate but should be ongoing.
  • Ophthalmologists expressed very positive views and widely acknowledged that these new care pathways would reduce unnecessary referrals into hospital eye services and shorten patient waiting times.
  • Commissioners felt both schemes met or exceeded expectations in terms of quality of care, allowing patients to be seen quicker and more efficiently.
  • 95 per cent of patients in both schemes had confidence and trust in their optometrist.
  • No major negatives were reported, although both schemes were limited to patients resident within certain postcode areas and some inappropriate GP referrals occurred. It was notable that communications with hospitals was praised in GRRS but was variable, depending on the hospital, for MECS.

Mike Bowen, director of research for the College of Optometrists said; “This research provides important evidence on the viability and effectiveness of these schemes and it shows the benefit of optometrists working to provide extended primary care eye services. These findings are especially important because this is the first multi-stakeholder study of enhanced eye care services to include the views of patients and commissioners.”

The College of Optometrists’ ESEP aims to provide evidence about optometrist’s involvement in community schemes. Previous publications include an in-depth analysis of the introduction of a MECS in south-east London published in BMJ Open and the first systematic review of the evidence on the effectiveness of these schemes, published in the College’s international research journal Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics (OPO).

The College’s ESEP will continue to provide further evidence about the health economics and potential cost-savings of the enhanced schemes in Lambeth and Lewisham and Manchester in 2017.