Media Release: Cabinet Secretary launches National Optometry Centre

PATIENTS met Cabinet Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon today as she officially opened Scotland’s first optometry training centre in Edinburgh.

The Lothian Optometry Teach and Treat Clinic (LOTT) is a partnership between National Education for Scotland (NES) and NHS Lothian to provide a national training centre for optometry.

The £500,000 facility, at Lauriston Building, is purpose built and designed to provide hands on experience in acute eye condition assessment and treatment.

The clinic has been designed to serve a dual purpose, to treat patients and also allow optometrists to broaden their understanding under supervision of NHS Lothian’s Ophthalmology department.

Mark Hamilton, service manager, NHS Lothian, said: “We are delighted that the Cabinet Secretary was able to officially open the clinic today and give recognition to the pioneering approach developed by the partnership.

“NHS Lothian is extremely proud to host the first national optometry training centre in Edinburgh and of the standard of facility we have been able to create in partnership with NES.”

Qualified optometrists will be able to increase their capabilities and confidence in addressing acute eye conditions and in turn allow them to provide more care locally avoiding hospital referrals.

With an increased ability to meet the needs of acute referrals each day, it hoped that the clinic will also help to reduce ophthalmology waiting times at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, said: “We are committed to developing community eye care services, and this facility is an excellent example of this.

“It is important that optometrists are the first point of contact for people with eye problems. Early referral to the hospital eye service can only be beneficial for patients who might be suffering from eye conditions that need treatment as quickly as possible.

“Following the introduction of the free NHS eye exam in Scotland, we are now acknowledged as a world leader in the provision of high quality and effective eye health care services.

“Healthcare should be free at the point of access for everyone – that is a founding principle of the NHS – and it is good news that the take up of the free eye exam continues to grow.”

The Lothian Optometry Teach and Treat Clinic will also serve as a national Optometry educational resource centre that can be used for lectures and seminars out-with clinical hours.

The facility has state of the art telehealth technology which will allow clinicians to share images and discuss cases via telephone and video conferencing, meaning that remote patient diagnosis and monitoring are possible.

NHS Education for Scotland CEO, Malcolm Wright, said: “We are extremely proud to have established Scotland’s first Optometry Teach and Treat Clinic in Edinburgh where community Optometrists attend a clinic to examine and manage patients normally referred to an Acute Eye Clinic.

“As part of its Delivering Quality in Primary Care policy, the Scottish Government has recently allocated £6.6m for an IT network to enable community Optometrists to refer patients’ case notes and photographs of relevant eye conditions to hospitals for advice on whether formal referral is necessary.

“This educational stream is directed towards improving the standard delivery of care in the community and so reducing unnecessary referrals to hospital wherever possible and safe.

“Consultant Ophthalmologists will be able to view images on plasma screens for Optometrists and junior doctors to discuss the images and the differential diagnosis.

“All of this and many other plans are just part of the exciting future for Optometry services and education.”

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Contact: Victoria Mundell
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