The traditional eye health care team has changed and continues to develop to meet the demands placed on the hospital eye service. This is due to an increase in chronic disease management due to the aging population in the UK as well as the new and successful treatments available. The sight of patients, in many cases, can now be saved or prolonged for many years.
Aspects of clinical work that were previously the domain of the medically qualified ophthalmologist are now being delivered by a broader multidisciplinary team. This new team of qualified optometrists, orthoptists, ophthalmic nurses and ophthalmic clinical scientists have taken on expanded roles, which release ophthalmologists to deal with the more complex cases and decision making.
Additionally there are a number of other professions involved in the care of a patient:
- Hospital doctors and GPs
- Visual function technicians
- Ocular prosthetists
- Ophthalmic photographers
Ophthalmic Practitioner Training
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists works with Health Education England, the College of Optometrists and the Royal College of Nursing to develop a framework for training and upskilling healthcare professionals as part of the important multidisciplinary team.
The team works together to ensure that the patient is seen by the most appropriate person at the right time during their treatment and follow up care and this may take place either in hospital eye clinics or in community hubs. Those involved in the care of an eye patient may include the following; hospital optometrists, ophthalmic nurses and orthoptists.
Patients will often be seen by their local optometrist when they experience problems with their vision. As the primary care provider, optometrists are skilled in recognising when patients may need to be seen by an ophthalmologist and will refer the patient accordingly. Often, once the patient has been diagnosed and treatment agreed, the optometrist will provide follow up care for the patient and reduce the number of visits to the eye clinic in hospital.
RCOphth works closely with The College of Optometrists to develop the best possible pathways for patients across the community and in hospital. Read more about our collaborative ‘Vision’.
CUES Webinar Discussion
Joint webinar by The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and The College of Optometrists on CUES and collaborative working to implement safe patient pathways.
Ophthalmic nurses possess the educational and clinical expertise to provide holistic patient care in a range of ophthalmic healthcare settings. Patients with eye conditions and eye health needs are central to the delivery of individualised care. Ophthalmic nurses plan, assess, implement and evaluate care to optimise patient health outcomes. Many ophthalmic nurses provide autonomous ophthalmic patient care as part of the multidisciplinary team. Ophthalmic nursing offers continued opportunities in education and practice to meet the developing nature of ophthalmic patient care.
Orthoptists undergo professional training and have an extremely varied caseload. Typically, their work with babies and children involves the management and treatment of amblyopia (or lazy eye) and strabismus (misalignment of the eyes or squint). With adults, they will manage and treat a range of conditions leading to double vision, commonly following neurological episodes, such as strokes or brain damage. They may work as part of the team within the eye unit itself, or independently as community orthoptists.
Working with Health Education England, RCOphth is encouraging the take up of apprenticeships as another rewarding career choice route.