Swift work by eye care service helps to save Stafford man’s sight

A Staffordshire man received swift treatment which may have stopped him going blind in one eye thanks to a pioneering eye care service running through Stafford and Cannock optometrists.

Alan Males, aged 55, was gardening at his home in Dearnsdale Close, Stafford, last September (2015) when he noticed that he had abruptly lost 80 per cent of the vision in his right eye.

At first he ignored the problem, but when it had not gone away the next day he sought help and, thanks to the community optometrist-led Primary Eye care Assessment & Treatment Service (PEATS), he was diagnosed as having a detached retina and was sent to Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital for an urgent operation to save his sight.Alan Males left and Richard Webb

Alan said: “I’m so thankful for everybody’s help – I’ve always been nervous and squeamish about anything to do with the eyes and my first instinct was to ignore it and hope it goes away.

“It’s very frightening to think about it, but I really could have gone blind if they didn’t get me in for an operation straight away. They worked miracles to get me in and then moved heaven and earth to get the operation done.”

Alan sought help at an opticians in Stafford town centre but they were unable to offer him the immediate care he needed so he was referred through the PEATS scheme to Webb, Lucas & Stubbs Optometrists, in Bridge Street, where his diagnosis was quickly made.

Optometrist Richard Webb said: “Retinal detachment, if not treated quickly, can be blinding. Luckily we spotted Mr Males’ problem right away and he had an operation the next day. His retina was reattached and we are delighted to say that his recovery has been exceptionally good. He has retained a great deal of useful sight that he would otherwise almost certainly have lost.”

He added: “I think the PEATS scheme is fantastic. It’s so convenient for patients – they don’t need to wait for a GP appointment or endure a long wait to be seen at A&E.

“Optometrists have the appropriate equipment and knowledge to diagnose problems quickly and under PEATS if we cannot see a patient fast enough we can ring around other local practitioners to find someone who can. We leave appointments available each day to ensure that we have spare capacity.”

Patients in the Stafford and Cannock areas seeking acute and non-acute care for issues such as such as sore red eyes, flashes and floaters in the vision, recent sudden loss of vision, or foreign body/minor trauma to the eye can self-refer to the PEATS service by simply dropping in to their optometrist, where they can be seen quickly or be directed to someone nearby who can help.

And GPs, pharmacists and other health professionals seeking help for their patients can also choose to refer patients directly to a participating PEATS practitioner.Alan Males undergoes an eye check up

Richard added: “At the moment the service is still finding its feet as word gets round. Patients are discovering PEATS when they get a problem and the word is beginning to spread. PEATS can only become more effective as patients find out about it and the feedback we’ve been getting from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.”

A recent UK survey showed that around 20.5% of patients attended their GP directly for minor eye complaints. Unfortunately, GP surgeries are not usually equipped to undertake a detailed examination and in some instances do not have the specialist knowledge needed to help.

As a result, most GPs in the UK currently have little choice but to refer patients to the local A&E department or Hospital Eye Service, even though this is unnecessary as the majority of common eye problems could be assessed and treated by local community optometrists.Alan Males undergoes an eye check up

Richard said: “PEATS is a fantastic idea – we’re doing our job as clinicians, we’re helping and reassuring patients, we’re reducing the demands put on GP and A&E services and patients are getting the fast and effective support that they need.”

PEATS was launched in the Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group and Cannock Clinical Commissioning Group areas in July 2015 and is available free of charge under the NHS to anyone registered with a Stafford or Cannock GP.

In the period between July 2015 and April 2016 some 1,085 people were treated under the PEATS scheme. Of these, 627 patients were discharged from the service and 225 patients were referred to secondary care.

In a patient survey, 100 per cent of respondents answered the question ‘How likely are you to recommend this service to family and friends if they required this service?’ with either ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’.

Alan added: “I can’t recommend PEATS highly enough. It worked very smoothly – my case was urgent but I didn’t have to traipse around looking for help. Everyone was working together and it got sorted quickly.

“I would definitely say that if you suspect something is wrong get it checked straight away. Don’t wait - go to your local optician and they can help you or send you to the person who can. It’s that easy.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

In common with Minor Eye Conditions Services elsewhere, the purpose of PEATS is:
To provide appropriate triaging of both acute and non-acute referrals from GPs, pharmacists, and other health professionals, by trained and accredited community optometrists

Treatment of minor eye conditions (e.g. sore, red eyes which cannot be managed by the GP)
Minor procedures (e.g. corneal foreign body removal)

Patients can either be referred in to the service by their GP, or they can self-present at a participating opticians’ practice

A list of participating opticians' practices can be found using the following link: http://www.staffsloc.co.uk/community_eyecare.phtml

In addition to providing an excellent eye care service close to home, in the familiar and friendly environment of the local high street opticians, it has been estimated that savings to the NHS of around £43,000 per 1,000 PEATS referrals are achieved.

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