Optical sector can help ease A&E crisis insists LOCSU

8 January 2015

NHS Commissioners can ease the winter pressures on A&E by making more use of high-street optical practices, LOCSU insists.

With crisis-hit casualty departments seeing an estimated 270,000 eye-related problems each year, eye health organisation LOCSU (Local Optical Committee Support Unit) is urging commissioners to use local optical practices to help reduce A&E pressures and improve capacity.

Responding to the latest figures revealing that A&E waiting times are the worst for a decade, LOCSU Managing Director, Katrina Venerus said: “With an more than a quarter of a million A&E visits and up to 4.5 million GP appointments attributed to eye problems, it makes good sense to free up unnecessary time taken up in hospital casualty and in GP surgeries by using the skills and availability of optometrists in high street practices to quickly treat patients at convenient locations.

“Enabling patients to visit local high street optical practices for the treatment of minor conditions is convenient, often cheaper and takes the pressure off secondary care, allowing the NHS to concentrate on real emergencies.

“Just 58 CCGs have a Minor Eye Conditions Service (MECs) covering 14 million people meaning that 39 million are not covered by such a scheme and almost three-quarters of CCGs are not reaping the benefits of reducing pressure on A&E, on secondary care and on GP appointments.

“While it won’t resolve the crisis facing the NHS on its own, a community-based minor eye care service can make a valuable contribution to easing the pressure on hard-pressed A&E departments.”

LOCSU is calling for more community-based optical services as part of preventative system of health delivery that the NHS chief Simon Stevens has identified as a way forward in the Five-Year Forward View published in October 2015.

Venerus said that optical practices, pharmacies and dental surgeries along with GP practices can become vital treatment centres at the forefront of a new, out-of-hospital health care.

“Optical practices, along with pharmacies and dentists have the clinical skills, the equipment, the high-street presence and most importantly the willingness to provide high-quality care in the local community where patients want it delivered as extra treatment and advice settings in addition to the traditional GP surgery,” she said.

“What we need now is for CCGs to acknowledge that the solution to out-of-hospital and primary care at scale is primed and ready to help transform health provision by offering a more preventative approach.

“This can ease the perfect storm of pressure that we see in A&E and that can only grow with an ageing population living with long-terms conditions.”

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MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Chris McGachy, LOCSU Communications Manager, email cmcgachy@locsu.co.uk, or telephone 020 7549 2053.

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