More than 25,000 eye care appointments were offered by optometrists across Northern Ireland in July as part of phase one of the re-opening of services, double the originally anticipated figure of 12,200.
These appointments included routine and urgent eye tests and were offered first to those with the most urgent need, including eye care conditions such as loss of vision, educational and occupational visual needs, and post-operative care.
From 3rd August, phase two of return of primary care ophthalmic services will begin and this means that, although patients with the most urgent need will continue to be prioritised, reminders for routine eye examinations can be now be issued.
Phase 2 includes the main elements of routine eye care, including eye examinations and ophthalmic dispensing and the provision of enhanced services.
Raymond Curran, Head of Ophthalmic Services at the Health and Social Care Board said, “The increase in number of appointments offered and taken up in the first phase of re-opening high street optometry services is a tribute to the work that has been done to adopt infection control procedures such as social distancing, extra cleaning, and use of personal protective equipment.
“Services are now being delivered as safely as possible and this has led to increased patient confidence about attending appointments.”
The majority of optometrists will continue to offer remote or virtual acute eye consultations where possible, seeing patients face-to-face where necessary.
Across Northern Ireland, there are approximately 500 optometrists, 75 dispensing opticians and 1,000 ophthalmic support staff.