Patients in west Suffolk are benefitting from a glaucoma service provided by West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group.
Set up two years ago, patients who have a simple puff test to see if they’re at risk of developing glaucoma when they visit the opticians, are then referred to the community glaucoma service, run in partnership with Newmedica, for additional tests if they are required.
The Newmedica team works closely with hospital consultants to review around
100 to 120 patient test results every week in a ‘virtual glaucoma clinic’ allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment.
Previously patients would have been offered an appointment with a hospital consultant for both a follow-up test and a review, which took around double the time per patient compared to the service delivered alongside Newmedica.
Consultants are now free to spend more time with patients who require direct face-to-face consultant review.
Mr Inderraj Hanspal, consultant ophthalmologist and clinical lead at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Previously, to keep up with demand, we were running nine doctors’ clinics a week as well as additional clinics at weekends. We had to employ locum doctors to help manage demand, but can now help the same amount of patients with only five doctors’ clinics a week and no additional glaucoma clinics at weekends. This not only saves vital NHS resources, but means the time I was spending doing tests can now be with my high risk patients with more complicated conditions and progressive glaucoma.”
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions that cause permanent sight loss by damaging the optic nerve. Most types of glaucoma have no symptoms in the early stages, so a regular eye test is the only way to know if you have the condition. Although there is currently no treatment to restore sight loss caused by glaucoma, treatments such as eye drops, laser and surgery can help prevent sight loss from happening in the first place.
Hanspal continued: “We are offering a much better service to our patients’ because new referrals can be tested out in the community. This is saving around 80% of our patients’ time, with only around 20% of these new patients needing to meet a consultant in hospital.”
Emma Wilden, service manager for the Suffolk community glaucoma service at Newmedica, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Mr Hanspal and the team at West Suffolk Hospital. Working closely with clinicians across the community means we can deliver the best possible eye care for patients.
“In December 2017, 97% of patients seen at the clinic would recommend the service to their friends and families. This shows the high level of patient care and satisfaction that this collaborative service provides.”
Dr Christopher Browning, chairman, NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This community glaucoma service is certainly benefiting patients, who are receiving good care as well as having the peace of mind that their eyes are being checked in a clinical setting. It is certainly pleasing that those patients are reporting such high levels of satisfaction.
“This is another example of how delivering more services in the community can deliver positive results for patients and give hospital consultants more time to deal with the most serious cases.”