At Newmedica Newcastle, we had some exceptional feedback from local Optometrist Paul Garvey, who has been glowing in praise for the new alternative service provider scheme and our work with him and his patients.
"Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the waiting list for NHS-funded cataract surgery and YAG laser capsulotomy increased significantly.
At the beginning of 2022, the Hospital Eye Service in our region advised us waiting times to surgery for routine referrals were between one and two years.
This created worry and concern for patients in our community when cataracts were identified as the reason for their vision problems, often affecting their personal independence, their responsibility as carers, as well as their ability to drive legally.
This created real challenges to community optometrists when giving advice to patients. It led many people to consider the option of private pathways to obtain earlier interventions for their visual difficulties.
When the government announced the provision of alternate service providers in our region to perform NHS-funded cataract surgery and laser capsulotomy, it seemed too good to be true. Especially when waiting times for surgery, previously quoted as months/years, were now days/weeks!
Initially, patients and optometrists held a shared concern that this service may be in some way inferior to the traditional Hospital Eye Service pathway.
Following discussions with our community patients though, we began to use the Alternate Service Providers. Newmedica opened in our area in July of 2022, and knowing some of the surgical, clinical, and administration staff, we were comfortable referring our patients to them.
What we did not expect was the patient feedback we received about their experience at Newmedica.
Exceptional service at all levels; convenient, timely appointments; efficient, caring, assessments by clinical assistants, appropriate advice and treatment from experienced surgeons and consultant ophthalmologists, reassuring post-operative care and attention to patients' questions and concerns.
The most common response from our patients is one of surprise - that this service is funded by the National Health Service and available to them at no charge, free at the point of use.
As a community optometrist, with experience working within the Hospital Eye Service and the General Ophthalmic Services, I hope that these alternate pathways remain available to my patients going forwards.
I feel they reflect the motto of NHS-funded care "Patients come first in everything we do; respect and dignity"
Following the feedback, Amanda Bargewell the Operations Director at Newmedica Newcastle, had this to say "I am so proud to receive such fantastic feedback, and knowing what an impact our team is having in the local community is truly amazing. Paul Garvey is extremely experienced in Ophthalmology having provided optometry services for over 20 years it is great to work together to support our patients."