Specsavers in Newport welcomed the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Vaughan Gething AM, to officially open its specialist eye treatment centre, marking the success of a pioneering facility that has reduced waiting times for assessment, diagnosis and treatment for people with an age-related eye conditions.

Unveiling a commemorative plaque to open the Austin Friars Eye Treatment Centre, Mr Gething had a tour of the facility, located at Specsavers, and met patients who had directly benefitted from the services delivered since it first opened in September 2016.

First of its kind

The centre is the first of its kind in the UK to see a high street optician provide initial screening and referrals for people with symptoms of wet age-related macular degeneration (Wet AMD), and for NHS staff delivering treatment for the condition at the same location.

Wet AMD affects the macula at the back of the eye and, if left untreated, can cause vision to deteriorate within days.

With funding from the Welsh Government, the Austin Friars Eye Treatment Centre, also known as the Ophthalmic Diagnostic Treatment Centre, has been developed through collaboration between Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and Specsavers in Newport.

The number of follow-up assessments for people in Gwent has increased by approximately 20% per week as a direct result of the service and the average referral time for treatment of the condition has reduced by more than 40% with an average reduction of 15 days - from 34 days to 19.

Protect your eyes

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, said: ‘I am pleased to open this pioneering treatment centre, which will provide assessment and treatment for people with wet AMD.

‘As part of our Together for Health Eye Care Delivery Plan 2013 – 18, we want to make it easier for people to access services closer to home, rather than having to attend hospital. This will also free up hospital-based ophthalmologists to manage those patients with the most complex conditions.’

Ground-breaking collaboration

Craig MacKenzie, optometrist director at Specsavers in Newport, said: ‘We’ve already seen a reduction in waiting time for treatment in the six months since the centre opened and have been able to increase the number of available follow-up appointments, helping those with the potentially sight-threatening condition to access healthcare services in an accessible community setting.

The centre has also helped to reduce the time that people have to wait to find out their results following initial screening for wet AMD.’

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