USW specialists join community eye care research team

RESEARCHERS at the University of South Wales (USW) are part of team investigating the value of monitoring chronic eye care conditions in the community.

The multidisciplinary group has won a Research for Patient and Public Benefit (RfPPB) grant from Health and Care Research Wales (HCRW) to investigate the benefits of monitoring any long-standing  sight-threatening problems.

Professor Carolyn Wallace and Dr Mark Davies of USW are part of the team, which also includes experts from Cardiff University, Swansea University, Sight Cymru, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (UHB), and Optometry Wales. Professor Barbara Ryan, who is an optometrist at Aneurin Bevan UHB, is the Project Lead.

Further collaboration also comes from the Macular Society, International Glaucoma Association, and the Wales Council for the Blind.

“Over recent years the workload on the hospital eye service in the UK has continued to expand beyond the capability of the available workforce,” said Prof Wallace.

“Since 2017, ophthalmology has had the highest number of outpatient episodes of any speciality in the NHS.”

A number of novel approaches to managing this has developed across the UK. Wales has primarily pursued improvements in training of primary care optometry.

“Optometrists are eyecare professionals that can work within the hospital environment, but more commonly work within the community providing eye examination services,” Prof Wallace added.

“Further training and qualification have allowed these primary care healthcare professionals to begin to provide services in the community that have historically been provided in the hospital setting.

“However, what services are provided and where are, at present, variable across the region. One reason for this variability is the lack of quality evidence to support the best approach to take.

“Therefore, this group, H2C Co-Lab Cymru (Hospital to Community Collaboration Cymru), has developed this project to better inform decisions taken at health board and Welsh Government level.”

The project aims to define the “value” of community optometrists managing, in the community, the common sight-threatening eye conditions of Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma.

It will not just focus on financial value, but have a patient-centred focus on the right management, in the right place, at the right time.