Sheffield Local Optometric Committee

2011 Chairman’s comment

It has been another busy year for the LOC, with the launch of 2 new schemes, both in their way record breakers, and the unfortunate demise of another.

The first record breaking scheme is the launch at long last of the Paediatric Referral Refinement scheme. The record it has broken is for the longest scheme development anyone here can remember. PRR has been under discussion since Shirley Blundell joined the LOC back in 2004, and it is only thanks to her dedication to improving child eye screening that we finally have a successful scheme up and running. Thanks, Shirley!

The second record breaking scheme is the quickest launch from idea to full roll out – the Contact Applanation Tonometry Scheme. The idea behind this was a simple one – the number of referrals to the Hallamshire for glaucoma went up with the introduction of the NICE guidelines, and many of these were being filtered out under the PEARS scheme. As contact tonometry is a core competency, it makes sense to pay practitioners to check their own patient’s IOP rather than referring. This has the advantages of being quicker, cheaper for the PCT and good for practitioners as they can hold on to their own patients rather than referring for a simple check.

I am sad to report the end of a long standing scheme – the diabetes eye screening. Optometrists have been involved with diabetes eye screening in one form or another for 11 years, initially by performing full eye examinations and reporting back on our findings, then, when the guidelines for eye screening changed, we were involved in a more diluted way in that we took the retinal photographs, but did not report on the findings. The images were graded later by a team at the Hallamshire. Following a fairly damning EQA report 2 years ago, we have been in discussions about our continuing role under a revamped scheme, hopefully expanding optometric involvement to becoming primary graders. However, we were told that our services were no longer required, and that was the end for us.

The new scheme has fewer locations, and initial feedback from patients (both from optometrists and at least one GP) is that they are unhappy with the change, and patients are withdrawing from the scheme.

The PEARS scheme continues to be successful, and is achieving it’s aim of providing good quality eye care at a more local level, while saving the PCT some much needed money. Last year’s cost savings were about £85,000, with 70% of referrals sent into the scheme being dealt with by the optometrist and 30% requiring onward referral.

I feel our biggest challenge over the next 2 years will be dealing with the transition from PCT to GP consortia – it’s a time of change for the NHS, and we must make sure we are not left behind.

Personal thanks from me go to the rest of the LOC for their support during my first year as Chair, especially to Phil Banton and Helen Bailey for their work as secretary and treasurer, and also to our regular guests at the LOC meetings – Richard Oliver, Steven Haig and more recently Alastair Mew, and also to Lynda Liddament at the PCT for her continuing efforts

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