26 July 2021

NEW joint vision launched for delivering eye care services across the UK

Following on from the joint vision statement for England published in August 2020, both Colleges have reviewed and built on the learnings over the past year resulting in a joint statement for the UK.

The College of Optometrists and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) continue to review the ongoing impact of the pandemic on eye services across primary and secondary care. Following on from the joint vision statement for England published in August 2020, both Colleges have reviewed and built on the learnings over the past year resulting in a joint statement for the UK which can be read here

As the COVID-19 restrictions evolve, it is important to develop more integrated eye care across all organisations that can provide capacity and meet patient demand in a safe and sustainable way and which protects patients from harmful delays. The NHS hospital eye service, the independent sector, community settings and primary care optometry can come together to develop and build on existing good pathway examples in all four nations and innovations introduced at pace during COVID-19.  

The joint vision aims to encourage ambitious, co-ordinated and collaborative eye care services across the whole sector, at pace and that provides equitable access for all patients, no matter where they live or what their circumstances may be.  Pathways must ensure patients are prioritised based on their clinical need and to receive care that is appropriate and accessible. Multidisciplinary professionals will provide that care working collaboratively in primary care, community and hospital settings. 

Colin Davidson FCOptom, President of the College of Optometrists said; “In the grip of the pandemic, we worked very quickly with the RCOphth to develop joint management principles and pathways that minimise the risk of vision loss. We – working with UK nation’s health and government bodies  and key sector bodies – need to build on these advances and go much further, in the interests of both of our professions and patients. We see this as the start of the conversation that will allow optometrists to be recognised and enabled to do more, in line with their skills so that optometrists can routinely provide services including , glaucoma triage and pre- and post-operative cataract assessments. 

Bernard Chang, President of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists said, ‘Both Colleges, working with key eye service providers within national health systems, recognise we cannot be complacent or stand still.  We must continue to push for more effective and innovative ways of delivering high quality patient care in a constantly changing pandemic environment and what this means for the future of eye services.  We now have tried and tested new models of care that are significantly making an impact on capacity and the backlogs.’

The joint vision is underpinned by four principles; reducing risk of visual loss due to delayed eye care; collaborative multidisciplinary professionals team working; direct patient contact with appropriate clinician or senior decision-maker eg. an optometrist with higher qualifications or the independent prescribing certificate, or the hospital eye service; pathways led by highest standards of clinical governance.

You can read our joint statement here.

Related further reading

Becky McCall asks how shifts in working practices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might change the ophthalmic services workforce.

The College’s Clinical Editor on renewed excitement and optimism in the profession.

This study investigates the opinions of contact lens practitioners at the end of lockdown about the changes they implemented.