Phasing out of Optician Practice Screening - 23/01/2018
By now, you should have all received a letter from Helen Jones, Staffordshire DESP Programme Manager, advising you of the gradual phasing out of diabetic eye screening from opticians' practices, to be replaced by NHS screening sites. Many of you have asked the LOC for its view on the matter.
From 1 April, opticians' screening will be phased out according to CCG area as follows:
This means that Stafford & Surrounds and Cannock Chase practices won't be offered an SLA for screening provider services beyond 1 April, unlike practices in the other CCG areas. In the other CCG areas it is of course up to screening practices whether or not they sign the SLA, and it is entirely a decision for each individual contractor to make.
Most of you will already have received a phone call from Clinical Lead Andrew Brown, explaining the reasons for the ending of opticians' practice screening. Suffice to say that the issue is neither quality or safety - opticians' practice screening has always performed exceedingly well in both of these areas. The main issue is a drop in the screening budget of 25%, which has resulted in a unilateral decision by DESP to end opticians' practice screening. Andrew advises that the reduced budget would have resulted in a drop in the screening tariff to below £5. Secondly, the open booking system offered by opticians' practices is at a disadvantage compared to the forced booking system used by the NHS screening sites, in terms of meeting the relevant KPI.
Andrew assures me that Staffordshire DESP will stress the importance of regular sight tests to diabetic patients during the course of a screening episode. Furthermore, Andrew and I will look at formalising a referral pathway from the screening service to the MECS service where appropriate.
In terms of how you manage the patient following the ending of diabetic eye screening at your practice, please adhere to The College of Optometrists' Guidance for professional practice in relation to Examining patients with diabetes mellitus. In instances where the patient is unsure of the date of their last screening appointment, the DESP Service Management Centre cannot discuss individual patients with practices as this would break Information Governance and Data Protection regulations. However, DESP has assured the LOC that the centre will be happy to disclose this information to patients themselves upon request. Secondly, if you or one of your optometrists detects referable retinopathy during the course of a sight test, one of DESP's clinical staff will provide general guidance over the phone if they are on site, and providing that IG regulations aren't breached. Otherwise, practitioners should refer via one of the usual pathways.
Finally, Andrew has asked me to express his thanks to everyone for their good work over the last 12 years.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact Alison at the LOC office.
Chair, Staffordshire LOC