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NHS England: College’s guidance will help to reduce avoidable sight loss

25 November 2013

Dr David Geddes, Head of Primary Care Commissioning for NHS England, has urged health commissioners to use new guidance published today by the College of Optometrists and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists to improve the quality and efficiency of eye health services. Dr Geddes says: “We can now treat more and more of the diseases that until recently caused blindness. This new guidance will help Clinical Commissioning Groups understand how best to work with local eye health professionals to redesign services to save people’s sight and to reduce the social and health consequence of failing vision. It is a piece of guidance which will be important to implement”.

The new guidance recommends how to improve services in three key areas: urgent eye care, age-related macular degeneration and low vision. It shows how commissioning community services delivering urgent eye care can reduce the number of people attending hospital casualty services at a time when they are struggling to meet demand. Age-related macular degeneration is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK and the guidance highlights how eye health teams can change the way they work to improve their services and reduce avoidable sight loss. Low vision services help people who have lost their sight maintain their independence and quality of life. Many parts of the country do not provide low vision services and the guidance recommends how low vision support can best be extended to all those who need it.

Dr Cindy Tromans, Chair of the College of Optometrists’ board, encouraged eye health clinicians and commissioners to work together: “This guidance is the perfect starting point to improve eye health in your area. Working with patients, ophthalmologists, GPs and commissioners has been extremely worthwhile and I would encourage Clinical Commissioning Groups and Local Eye Health Networks to do the same locally”.

Mr Richard Smith of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists explained how the guidance could improve the eye health of patients: “Commissioners, providers of eye health services and patients with sight problems all agree that eye health services should demonstrate high quality safe care and value for money. This is easy to say, but much harder to do. This guidance has been developed with input from clinicians, commissioners, GPs and those who work alongside people with sight loss to provide relevant facts, figures and references in an accessible format which we hope will make the task of planning eye health services less daunting than it would otherwise be. In particular, we hope that it will be of assistance to Clinical Commissioning Groups and local professional networks for eye health as they work together to prevent avoidable sight loss”.

The guidance was written by leading eye care clinicians with support from experienced clinical commissioners at the National Association of Primary Care, Royal College of General Practitioners and the Department of Health’s Right Care Team. Patient groups also contributed through the Vision 2020 UK Vision Strategy with the Macular Society providing further support on the age-related macular degeneration and low vision guidance.

The guidance can be found at and


The College also published recommendations for glaucoma services in February of this year. In the coming months, it will publish its recommendations to improve services for diabetic retinopathy and oculoplastics. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists is seeking NICE accreditation for guidance on cataract services which it expects to publish in 2014.



Notes to editors
  1. The College of Optometrists is the professional, scientific and examining body for optometry in the UK, working for the public benefit. Supporting its 14,000 members in all aspects of professional development, the College provides pre-registration training and assessment, continuous professional development opportunities, and advice and guidance on professional conduct and standards, enabling our members to serve their patients well and contribute to the wellbeing of local communities.
  2. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists sets the professional standards for eye doctors to benefit patient eye care and health in the UK. We support our 3,500 members with examinations, education, training and research to help further their continuous professional development and maintain the practice of ophthalmology to the highest standards. We are not a regulatory body, but we work collaboratively with government, health and charity organisations to recommend and support improvements in the co-ordination and management of eye care and health both nationally and regionally.

For more information please contact

Lindsay Heath, Head of Marketing and Communications, The College of Optometrists   T. 020 7766 4342

Liz Price | Communications Manager, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists  M. 07787 427720  D. 020 3770 5327