Emergency eye care provision

New centres to reduce the need to attend hospital.

New measures have been introduced to help patients with emergency eye problems, reducing the need for them to attend hospital during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Backed by up to £3 million of Scottish Government funding, Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres have been established in all health board areas.

New technology is also being trialled by NHS Grampian and NHS Forth Valley.

After a telephone consultation, some patients may be referred to optometrists within the treatment centres who can manage a wide range of conditions without further involvement from GPs or hospitals.

In Grampian and Forth Valley, live video and audio feeds between the centres and consultants in hospitals are also being used to enable more patients to be immediately diagnosed and treated.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:  

“While services have changed dramatically over the last few weeks, my message is clear – if you are worried about your health in any way, please get in touch with your GP. The same applies to your vision – if you have experienced any problems with your sight, please contact your local high street optician as soon as possible.

“I would like to thank NHS Boards and the optometry and ophthalmology professions for their excellent collaboration in establishing, at pace, more than 50 Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres across Scotland to manage patients without COVID-19 symptoms who need an emergency face-to-face consultation.

“I am pleased to see some NHS Boards are also using innovative new tele-ophthalmology technology. This means that more patients can be immediately diagnosed and treated in a community setting while gaining an expert opinion from the secondary care ophthalmology team.”


Patients without COVID-19 symptoms will be referred for an emergency face-to-face consultation after having a telephone triage or consultation with a community optometrist. Only the Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres will examine patients face-to-face. These premises have been provided with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required to keep patients and practitioners safe. The centres have been established by each Board with guidance and support from Eyecare Scotland, the national clinical leads multi-professional group.

Routine eye care services were suspended on 23 March. Since then, community optometry practices have continued to provide emergency and essential eye care services to patients, enabled by a package of financial support measures from the Scottish Government.

This includes provision of monthly average practice income from NHS services and up to £3 million of funding for the provision of emergency and essential eye care services.

More information about the tele-ophthalmology systems in NHS Grampian and Forth Valley is available online.


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