New study shows CCGs can reduce costs and acute ophthalmology activity through MECS

12 September 2016

Introducing extended primary eye care services can significantly reduce referral rates to hospital eye services, a new in-depth, academic report has revealed.

The study, comparing GP referral data, showed that first appointments in the local ophthalmology department dropped by more than a quarter following the introduction of a Minor Eye Conditions Service (MECS) in high-street optical practices.

The peer-reviewed evaluation of the Lambeth and Lewisham service showed that GP referrals to ophthalmology reduced by 26.8% compared to neighbouring Southwark, which had no MECS.

Almost two-thirds of patients (64%) were managed in optometric practice according to the data, published by the British Medical Journal and only 19% needed to be referred to the hospital eye service.

All 100% of patients who responded to a satisfaction survey rated the service highly.

A leading eye health organisation, LOCSU, hailed the results as a clear endorsement of the value and significance of extended primary eye care services.

“For the first time, we have independent evidence that minor eye conditions services in primary care reduce acute activity and CCGs costs,” said Katrina Venerus, Managing Director of the Local Optical Committee Support Unit.

“Given the current capacity issues in both the Hospital Eye Service and general practice, MECS is an obvious choice for commissioners yet we know that currently the service has been introduced by less than 40% of CCGs.

“As CCGs prepare to hold contract negotiations with Acute Trusts, we are urging commissioners to meet with their Local Optical Committee to discuss how an extended primary eye care service could improve service quality and reduce acute activity and spend in ophthalmology, the second biggest outpatient grouping in the NHS.


More information on the research paper, Evaluation of a Minor Eye Conditions Scheme delivered by Community Optometrists, can be found here:

The evaluation is part of the Enhanced Scheme Evaluation Project, run by the College of Optometrists. More information can be found here:


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