Over the course of the pandemic, over 4,000 patients have been transferred to Newmedica eye health clinics and surgical centres across England by the NHS locally.
While the majority of these appointments have been for cataract surgery and follow up appointments, including YAG laser treatment, patients have also been able to attend Newmedica clinics for treatment for their glaucoma and wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The scheme has had clear benefits for patients, who have been able to receive faster treatment and have not missed out on care, but also for local NHS trusts. The NHS has been able to ensure that their patients receive continuity of care despite the huge amount of pressure placed on their services by COVID-19.
The programme has focused on patients who has been waiting the longest for treatment rather than on new referrals, so people have been seen in order of need rather than by recent referral. In the south west, Newmedica Bristol has seen one of the largest numbers of transferred patients at over 1,500.
Julian Phillips, operational director at Newmedica Bristol, said: ‘The NHS has been building resilience across permanent services throughout the pandemic, and Newmedica Bristol and Frome have been delighted to provide support to the local hospitals and their ophthalmology patients whilst these hospitals continue managing emergencies, urgent and complex cases.
‘We continue to work closely with the Bristol Eye Hospital, Royal United Hospital Bath and Salisbury Foundation Trust in order that they can reprioritise their own ophthalmology care, using the available capacity in the local system to support patient flow in these still challenging times.
‘Working closely with the respective CCGs and secondary care hospitals, Newmedica Bristol has increased its capacity utilising their skills and expertise, and through the experience of our ophthalmology staff.’
The support of Newmedica Grimsby has proved to be vital in helping local CCGs and Trusts in North East Lincolnshire manage capacity issues.
Eddie McCabe, assistant director of contracting and performance at North East Lincolnshire CCG, said: ‘We have worked with Newmedica for many years addressing capacity issues within ophthalmology locally, but the last year has highlighted even more difficulty in supporting the local acute system to deliver outpatient follow ups and some surgical capacity, as COVID-19 restricted access for patients.
‘The overall benefit at this difficult time highlights future work that can be jointly delivered under the structures of the local contracts and the future developments in the Increasing Capacity Framework. Flexibility by all partners and the willingness to do all we can to treat patients as safely and quickly as possible was evidence of useful joint working.’
On Teesside, Newmedica Middlesbrough saw more than 500 transferred patients during the second and third wave, after providing a temporary home for the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s retinal therapy injection service throughout the first lockdown.
Yasmin Scott, senior service manager at the Trust, said: ‘Newmedica has been a key partner in the Trust’s ability to deliver ophthalmology provision throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling services to continue and ensuring patients receive the care they require.’
Annette Johnson, operational director at Newmedica Middlesbrough, said: ‘Our strong relationships have meant that we can support the NHS to keep ophthalmology services moving at the time when their services have been under tremendous strain. Because of this partnership, local people have been able to receive continuity of care for their eye conditions, and we are delighted to have been able to provide this support.’
Newmedica has also responded to requests from the NHS to train junior doctors. Following the framework for training in the Independent sector, announced by Health Education England in December 2020, Newmedica is welcoming ophthalmology trainees whose training has been disrupted by the pandemic.