- In partnership with Bayer, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have transformed a vacant ward to improve medical retina services at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.
- The new diagnostic hub will quadruple the service capacity from 54 to 210 patient slots per week
A new diagnostic service has opened its doors from a previously vacant ward at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, providing greater access to sight-saving care for those suffering from retinal conditions and glaucoma in the North East of England.
The initiative is the result of a partnership between The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Bayer plc, to offer more people with sight-threatening conditions timely treatment, when pressures on services due to the pandemic have caused inevitable delays.
The new diagnostic hub, triage and the medical retina service has begun welcoming its first patients to the ward and will be expanding the number of sessions per week from three to six, as a result of the smooth running of the clinic since opening its doors last month. The increase in service capacity will aim to quadruple pre-pandemic levels from 54 to 210 slots per week, phased over an 8-week period.
The new remote imaging equipment will remove the need for follow-up face-to-face consultations, as the images taken at the patient appointment can be reviewed remotely to determine the appropriate follow-up, thus reducing the need for further in-person appointments.
It is estimated there are more than 5.7 million people living with sight-threatening conditions in the UK, with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy amongst the most common causes of severe sight loss.[i] Early detection and regular treatment can help to minimise or prevent vision loss, however during the UK lockdowns, eye clinics reported more than a 70% reduction in new referrals and a high rate of missed appointments.[ii]
James Talks, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Medical Retina Departmental Lead at Newcastle Hospitals Eye Centre said: “We are delighted to launch the new diagnostic hub, which has been designed to increase capacity and reduce pressures on eye care services at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, helping to reduce unnecessary delays for patients awaiting assessment or treatment.
“Due to the increase in capacity, there is little waiting involved on the day, which is great for our patients. Appointment times are staggered, so while we are seeing high patient numbers, their safety has been foremost when providing this service.
“As well as increased capacity, the new retinal service will also implement new patient pathways to make sure that any new patients who might have missed eye care appointments are seen quickly and are referred to the appropriate care team.”
The service re-design has seen the re-purposing of a vacant Day Ward within the Ophthalmology Department at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, as well as the purchase of remote imaging equipment, the recruitment and training of new technicians and clinical staff and an investment in IT infrastructure. This can provide instant access to a patient’s complete examination history and can support future demand.
Commenting on Bayer plc’s contribution to the initiative, Penny Shaddick, Head of Patient Access at Bayer said: “We are proud to have partnered with Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on a project aimed at addressing the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and improving the wellbeing of people suffering with retinal conditions, providing greater access to high-level NHS care within the recommended timelines.”