Virtual eye clinics

Patients are set to benefit from a £1m investment bringing “virtual eye clinics” to Bolton.

Currently many patients have lengthy appointments at the busy Eye Unit at the Royal Bolton Hospital where they have a number of tests carried out by multiple staff including a specialist.

But from November 20 clinically appropriate patients who need monitoring for glaucoma or wet macular degeneration will be invited to clinics at Waters Meeting Health Centre. There, an advanced ophthalmic technician will carry out all the tests and send them electronically to the doctor’s computer for analysis. The results and next steps will be sent to the patient and their GP soon afterwards. The appointments should take no more than an hour compared with two to three hours at present.

This allows for large numbers of patients to be seen in the community and reduces the length of time that they  may wait for an appointment.  This new arrangement will allow doctors to see and treat more patients in the working week.

The innovative new service development has been designed in close collaboration between NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. It is modelled on a successful service running at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and has been supported by the purchase of the very latest equipment.  The sessions at Waters Meeting will run each day from Monday to Friday and be delivered  by five advanced ophthalmic technicians and three clinical leads.   It is expected that around 2000 patients a year will go to Waters Meeting for monitoring checks.

Kath Smyth, Clinical Lead for Ophthalmology, said: “As the population is living longer, so are we caring for more and more people with eye problems. There are also new treatments for previously untreatable conditions which means we need to see more patients. This new service is a very exciting development for Bolton. It will give much faster expert review for patients via the virtual clinics and free up more capacity to see patients at the Eye Unit. I think it is something of which we can all be very proud.”

Barry Silvert, Clinical Director of Commissioning at NHS Bolton CCG, said: “This is an exciting and transformational change to the way in which hospital eye care is delivered in Bolton. Ophthalmology services are under increasing pressure nationally and Bolton has taken this innovative step. By having co-developed an outcome based clinically sustainable model, Bolton’s eye care services are now fit for the future.” 

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