Innovative ‘community’ eye clinic for Western Sydney

11 March 2016

A community eye clinic modelled on a successful UK program for managing glaucoma patients will open in Western Sydney before July this year.

The new community clinic located in Blacktown’s Westpoint Shopping Centre will only screen and assess patients with diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Depending on the severity of their condition, patients screened at the clinic will be either monitored by a local optometrist or referred to the Westmead Eye Clinic at Westmead Hospital for treatment.

Dr Andrew White, an ophthalmologist at Westmead Eye Clinic, heads up the initiative, which is part of a broader project known as the Community Eye Care Project (C-Eye-C Project).

Dr White said the new clinic will follow the lead of the Cambridge community Optometry Glaucoma Scheme, which has been successful in reducing the number of false positive glaucoma referrals to hospitals by undertaking community-based glaucoma screening.

Diabetes and glaucoma rates are high in Western Sydney, which has both a growing population and an ageing one.

Dr White said filtering referrals via the community clinic will have a big impact.

“Westmead Eye Clinic receives hundreds of referrals a month. There is no way we can see all those patients; it’s not possible. We physically don’t have the space and there are not enough hours in the day,’ he said.

Dr White was involved in the Cambridge community Optometry Scheme and saw first-hand how effective the model was.

“On the basis of referral, all low-risk cases were instructed to see one of three optometrists taking part in the program,” he explains.

“The results of each patient’s consultation with an optometrist were sent to ophthalmologists taking part in the scheme to review.”

Dr White said the scope of the C-Eye-C Project is much bigger than the model in Cambridge, but the goal is the same: to reduce the flood of low-risk cases referred to ophthalmology.

“We have the money and authority to open a shop-front, for want of a better term, in Blacktown to assess low-risk patients,” he explains.

“Low-risk patients will have testing there, for diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. That information will come to us at Westmead Eye Clinic at various intervals for review.”

The community eye clinic will open at Westpoint Shopping Centre in Blacktown by mid-year.

The project team is currently undertaking a tender process to appoint staff at the clinic, including optometrists.

Dr White said the model of care the clinic is designed around ophthalmology it will provide an enhanced role for optometry and open up better dialogue between optometrists and ophthalmologists.

“The goal of the C-Eye-C Project is to prevent avoidable vision loss and blindness by improving access to appropriate management for patients with non-acute disease, specifically diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and uncomplicated cataract,” he said.