Herefordshire optometrists help protect the NHS in battle against COVID-19

With many of Herefordshire’s optometrist and optician practices now closed due to the Coronavirus epidemic, Herefordshire’s Local Optometric Committee (HLOC) confirm that two Hereford city centre optometrists, BBR Optometry and Specsavers, are continuing to provide urgent and essential care services. The services are available to people from across Herefordshire, particularly keyworkers.

These optometrists are urging anyone with essential or emergency eye related issues to contact them directly, to ease pressure on GPs and the eye hospital, whilst they focus on battling the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nick Rumney, managing director at BBR Optometry, confirms:

“There is now an emergency plan in place for any eye condition, from red eye, sudden onset floaters, loss of vision or even broken glasses. As well as BBR Optometry, there are several prescribing optometrists in Hereford who can diagnose and prescribe medicines just like a Doctor so you don’t need to attend hospital.”

Put simply, the rule for any eye related issue is not to bother your GP, but to contact your own optometrist or optician instead and if they are closed they will pass you onto one of the practices offering emergency services across the county. If possible care will be managed by telephone triage, resorting to a face-to-face examination (with PPE) only if absolutely necessary and onward referral again only where necessary. Optometry services are classified as essential (e.g. getting a front-line worker back functioning if their glasses were broken) or emergency such as a sudden loss of vision or eye pain. 

HLOC confirms that although eye problems might seem to have taken a back seat, whilst other measures such as social distancing and hospital resilience built up, vision is the sense that people fear losing the most so it is vital to have a proactive approach to eye care. Most people realise that having an eye examination is a pretty close up affair, so to minimise risk associated with Coronavirus, local optometrists have been advising patients to defer their routine appointments.  

So far under this system, scores of patient have been assessed for their post-cataract operation review, several have had medical prescriptions issued, one person has been referred for macular degeneration injections and a nurse has had her broken glasses replaced so she can re-enter the front line. 

Herefordshire has a very active Local Optometric Committee chaired by Darren Smith (Specsavers) assisted by Nicholas Black (BBR Optometry). The Committee is in regular contact with the local NHS (Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group) and the Wye Valley Trust Ophthalmology Victoria Eye Unit. Herefordshire therefore has one of the most integrated primary and secondary eye care systems in the whole of the UK outside Scotland and until this present crisis, over 16,000 appointments annually were taking place in optometry practices instead of in hospital.

Nicholas Rumney added:

“We always looked at this from a big picture perspective; it’s not just about us, it’s about the community, society and the country. We very much see our role as being supportive of trying to keep people out of accident and emergency and the GP surgery.

“From the outset, the Acting Clinical Lead Ophthalmologist at Hereford hospital, Simon Madge, shared the hospital resilience plan, so optometrists knew they would be a vital link in the chain of keeping COVID-19 susceptible people out of hospital. Not least as all routine eye examinations, surgery and even A&E was effectively closing at Wye Valley Trust.” Said Nick.

Photo: Charlotte Apperley (left) and Hannah Biddle at BBR Optometry, maintaining special distance delivering essential optical items to patients.

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