We’ve been running the Community Eye Service (CES) in Brighton and Hove at Warmdene Surgery since 2009. I’m a GP at the surgery – I’ve been here since 2007 – but after completing my medical degree in 1991 I specialised in ophthalmology for 12 years. I moved into general practice in 2004.
The origins of the eye service
In 2008 Sussex Eye Hospital was treating a wide range of conditions – including relatively minor conditions. Clinical leaders in the hospital began to wonder if a community service could offer a more accessible pathway for patients – quicker and more direct – and also ease demand on the Eye Hospital. This was the start of the CES. In my role as GP with a specialism in ophthalmology at Warmdene Surgery, I collaborated with Here, Dr Doshi from the Eyecare Centre in Hove, and BSUH to successfully bid to run the pilot for the service – which lasted two years. The substantive service was commissioned in 2011 and has been running ever since.
What we do
We’re able to help people with a wide range of minor eye conditions – everything from meibomian cysts to warty growths on the lids. We also do entropion surgery. And we assess and sometimes manage watery eyes – blepharitis and conjunctivitis – or any sort of sore, red, itchy eyes. We also have a YAG laser which means we can conduct capsulotomies – a treatment for posterior capsular opacification which is something that a third of people who undergo cataract surgery experience.
I see the majority of our patients. Once a month my fellow clinician, Dr Doshi, hosts a clinic to see people with red eyes, blepharitis and son on.
The CES is largely a one-stop service. If someone has a chronic condition that requires regular follow-up, this isn’t the service for that. But if someone has a condition like the ones I describe, we feel a one stop service is ideal to deal with these types of problems.
What do patients think?
We’ve had very good feedback from our patients. We always ask patients for feedback – they can complete a simple online survey. We have very few complaints but I always read patients’ comments. Here are a few typical examples:
“Compassionate team. Thank you.”
“My experience today was exemplary and far superior to visits to other venues. The doctor who examined my eyes inspired me with confidence in his skills and I am so grateful to have been referred here.”
“I have always received excellent treatment at the Warmdene clinic. Mr Rogers and his assistant always make me feel at ease before, during and after treatment. The reception staff are absolutely fantastic, the surgery is welcoming, clean and tidy. I would highly recommend this surgery to anyone. Thank you.”
“A very pleasing experience. A great NHS innovation. Much better than a stressful, busy hospital. Thank you.”
I think there are some good reasons for this positive feedback from our patients. The service runs from Warmdene Surgery at the County Oak Medical Centre. There’s ample parking here, as opposed to heading up to the eye hospital. It’s a very pleasant surgery – I think it’s a nice place for people to come to. By and large we don’t keep people waiting for hours on end as they sometimes do in the eye hospital. We give people an appointment slot and we keep to that appointment slot. I’d be surprised if we had people sitting in the waiting room for longer than five minutes here.
We aim to see everyone within three weeks of the receipt of the referral and to a large extent we achieve that. And if we don’t achieve it on the odd occasion the reason is usually because the patient wanted to defer for some reason. It’s certainly not a capacity issue. I can’t tell you exactly what the eye hospital wait is at the moment, but as GP myself when I refer other things to them I know we’re talking about months, not weeks.
The comments tell me that people feel much more at ease coming here than going to a hospital. It is much less intimidating coming here. And we believe the service we provide here is equally as good as the eye hospital.
Who can refer to the Community Eye Service?
For most treatments, GPs and optometrists can refer to us – this comes to us through a referral service. The wait is less than three weeks. For the YAG laser, the referral comes to us direct. So the wait is often even shorter.
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