29 February 2024

Optometrists and ophthalmologists update their joint care vision

Our vision for better integrated eye care services

The College of Optometrists and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists have published an updated joint vision for the continued collaboration of the two professions, to support the delivery of safe and sustainable eye care services across the UK.  

The two professional bodies first developed a joint vision in 2020, as a tool to help drive the transformation of English eye care services and ensure safe care during the pandemic. In 2021 they published a UK-wide joint vision.

The updated 2024 version re-emphasises their guidance for the integration of services. It will help commissioners and clinicians design eye care services that ensure patients are prioritised based on their clinical need and receive care that is appropriate and accessible. It champions multidisciplinary eye care professionals providing that care, working collaboratively in primary care, community, hospital and independent sector provider settings.

The publication sets out what care should look like for patients in different parts of the care pathway, and contains practical recommendations around long-term service frameworks, models of care, referrals and governance. 

The 2024 update highlights and reflects the current scale of work increasingly being undertaken in primary eye care and emphasises the need for enhanced digital two-way communication and image sharing between all health professionals involved.

It is underpinned by four key principles:

  • The provision of timely eye care in an equitable, appropriate and accessible way; to reduce the risk of visual loss caused by delay.
  • Multidisciplinary professionals working collaboratively in primary care, community, and hospital settings (including the independent sector) to provide care that is facilitated by effective digital communication and connectivity.
  • Direct patient contact taking place with a clinician capable of making appropriate management decisions including, where required, support by a senior decision maker e.g. an optometrist with higher qualifications or independent prescribing status, or the hospital eye service.
  • All pathways being led by the highest standards of joint optometry and ophthalmology clinical governance, applied equitably to all who are providing care, and underpinned by patient centred outcome measures.

Speaking about the updated joint vision, President of The College of Optometrists, Professor Leon Davies FCOptom said:

Professor Leon Davies PhD BSc(Hons) FCOptom Prof Cert Med Ret

President of The College of Optometrists 

“With better integration of services, the knowledge, skills and expertise of optometrists and ophthalmologists, and their colleagues, can be most effectively used to provide safe and sustainable patient care. Not only should more services be commissioned within primary eye care, we also need much better digital integration, image sharing and two-way communication between all eye care providers.

“Working with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists to update this joint vision for integration also supports The College of Optometrists’ workforce vision – to recognise and effectively utilise the skills of the whole eye care workforce and improve outcomes for patients and local communities. We are pleased to continue this important collaboration and will work with all partners to achieve this vision.”

Professor Ben Burton

President of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists

“With patient need expanding, it is more crucial now than ever that ophthalmology and optometry are able to work together to provide timely and high-quality care.

“Currently, just 17% of NHS ophthalmology departments report that their services are very well integrated with optometry, and a lack of shared electronic patient record systems and interoperable imaging standards are preventing more joined up pathways.

“So, we are pleased to launch our and the College of Optometrists’ updated joint vision for safe and sustainable eye care services fit for the future. We look forward to working with commissioners and clinicians to make this vision a reality.”

Related further reading

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