Eye group to launch surgical training initiative

L-R: Richard Armitage (Optegra NHS Director) with Marie Priest (clinic manager), surgeon Mr Usman Mahmood and Mat Pickering (regional director) at the launch of the Optegra Eye Clinic Newcastle

Optegra Eye Health Care is putting in place Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ (RCOphth’s) recommendations calling for independent sector providers who deliver cataract surgery to help contribute to a sustainable ophthalmology service.

It is launching a new surgical training initiative in early 2022, working closely with the college to support trainee surgeons at its Manchester hospital.

Optegra aims to initially bring on doctors from ST4 level and above but hopes to expand the programme so it can support doctors earlier on in their training as the initiative develops. Consultant surgeon Mr Chris Hemmerdinger will oversee the initiative.

Training will take place in six-month rotations and be expanded, it is hoped, to its other hospitals.   

Richard Armitage

NHS director for Optegra, Mr Richard Armitage, said his company backed the RCOphth’s view that the independent sector should support the health service with three core elements – NHS cataract care, training, and high levels of patient safety and treatment quality.

Last month, it officially opened the doors of the new Optegra Eye Clinic Newcastle, serving NHS patients of the North-east who are awaiting cataract surgery.

Waiting times for cataract treatment in the region are 71.8 weeks with almost 1,000 patients waiting over 52 weeks within the local clinical commissioning group – well above the average.

Prof Bernie Chang, president of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said: ‘The landscape for how NHS funded cataract surgery is delivered in England has shifted dramatically and has helped to overcome some of the backlogs and disruption to NHS eye services caused by the pandemic.

‘Everyone involved in eye care services, whether we work in the traditional NHS setting or the private sector, must work together towards a sustainable ophthalmology service into the future. This means access to surgical sessions for ophthalmologists in training in the independent sector and working to the same standards of high-quality patient care by all.’