A new, mobile sight-saving service launched this week, serving the mid-Hants area, supporting the recovery of local hospital eye service and ensuring the continued delivery of timely, safe and effective treatment.
The service is for local people who need treatment for the debilitating disease, Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (Wet AMD), which affects more than 600,000 people in the UK. The Macular Society has now revealed that almost 1.5 million people nationally are affected by macular disease making it the nation’s leading cause of vision loss in adults.
This new mobile NHS eye service, delivered by Practice Plus Group, will initially provide quick and effective treatment for patients from the Mid Hampshire area who have been referred by either their GP or their optician for Wet AMD, diabetic macular oedema or retinal vein occlusions. A fast referral is of vital importance in the treatment of Wet AMD, as even a few days’ delay can have serious consequences for vision quality. In this service, patients will be offered an appointment within 72 hours of referral and treated by specialist nurses overseen by an ophthalmology consultant team.
Ms Karen Goodall, Practice Plus Group’s national clinical director for macular services, explained: “Wet AMD is caused when abnormal blood vessels grow into the macular area, which is responsible for central vision. Blood or fluid can leak from these vessels, causing scarring and rapid loss of vision. The good news is that, with prompt treatment, deterioration can be stopped in its tracks and a person’s sight saved. We urge referrers to act quickly upon discovering any symptoms for Wet AMD. This disease only deteriorates the vision and we want to help stop this.
Ms Goodall continued: ‘We have established fast-track referral pathways for optometrists and GPs that ensures, the moment they become concerned that their patient may have Wet AMD, they can contact us for an appointment. We aim to see, diagnose and treat patients within 72 hours of referral and we achieve the delivery of 100 per cent of appointments within a week; that’s twice as quickly as the Royal College of Ophthalmology guidelines. As a result, our outcomes are among the best in the country with sustained visual gains of 4-6 letters on average.
Practice Plus Group, which runs the service on behalf of the NHS, has invested more than £450,000 in the mobile clinical unit and equipment, which incorporates a waiting room, assessment area and treatment room in which patients receive the sight-stabilising injections. The mobile team is based out of the Practice Plus Group Hospital, Southampton, rated as ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission.
The mobility of the service will prevent people with visual problems from having to travel long distances from their homes for treatment. It will also be possible for some local patients, who currently have to travel outside the area for treatment, to be transferred to the new local service by their GP, optometrist or NHS Trust.
Practice Plus Group’s service director for Ophthalmology, John O’Brien, commenting on this new service said: “Patients come to us at a point in their lives when they are feeling particularly vulnerable. They may have started to lose their central vision, with all the attendant concern that this can bring. Our clinical teams help to overcome our patients’ anxiety by bringing our service closer to them and by arranging appointments at times to suit the patient to improve the accessibility of clinical services in a smaller, friendlier, welcoming environment.
The mobile service will be regularly visiting South Winchester Park and Ride, Winchester, SO21 2FG Nursling B&Q, SO16 0YW, with services also provided at the hospital-based site in Practice Plus Group Hospital, Southampton, Level C Royal South Hants Hospital, Brinton’s Terrace, and Southampton, SO14 0YG. Other locations are currently being identified and will be published soon.
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