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New eye equipment improves care provided to Colchester patients

Rosemary Carter

Retina image

Captions:The first photograph shows Rosemary Carter, ophthalmology healthcare assistant, using the new OCT machine in the Retinal Suite, Essex County Hospital. The patient is Chris Entwistle, aged 63, of Tiptree, who has a diagnosis of central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO). The second image shows his retina.

21 June 2017

Equipment provided by Bayer, a healthcare company, has improved the running of clinics and the care provided to patients in Colchester. The availability of a second optical coherence tomography (OCT) machine for the Retinal Suite at Essex County Hospital means that eye patients are now spending less time in clinic and returning home sooner.

The OCT machine is used to examine the retina, the light sensitive part of the back of the eye, and enables medical photography and nursing staff to monitor the progress of treatment. Staff are able to show patients images of their retina on a monitor which means they can see and understand what is going on in their eye.

Consultant ophthalmologist Mr Jignesh Patel, who is based at Essex County Hospital, said the most common retinal disease is age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

OCT is also used in the diagnosis and monitoring of other serious eye conditions, including glaucoma, diabetic macular oedema and retinal vein occlusion as well as for pre- and post-operative cataract patients and some emergency patients.

Mr Patel said: “The problem with having only one OCT machine was that it was constantly in use and we had only limited opportunities to train staff in how to use this important item of equipment.

“Now that we’ve got a second machine, we’ve trained the whole team of 20 nurses, health care assistants and technicians to use it.

“This and other improvements to the patient pathway means that a straightforward AMD patient can be in and out of the clinic within 45 minutes, compared with two hours or so in the past.

“This is a very positive development in terms of the patient experience, reducing the length of time they have to hang about, meaning they can return home sooner.”

The Retinal Suite was established in 2014 as a “one-stop shop” service for the growing number of patients with retinal disease.

Last year (2016), OCT was carried out on average 1,710 times a month, compared with a monthly average of just 81 in 2009.

As the Retinal Suite offers a one-stop service, patients with AMD are diagnosed and have their first treatment, which consists of a drug being injected directly into their eye, during their first visit. They return five times over the next 6-8 months to have further injections and to have their progress monitored.

Mr Patel said the donation of a second OCT machine by Bayer has made a significant difference to patients and many have shared positive feedback.

Dr Jackie Napier, Medical Director for Ophthalmology at Bayer, said: “At Bayer, we are committed to working with NHS Trusts across the UK to optimise the care provided to patients. We are proud to have the opportunity to provide innovative bespoke support and solutions that aim to improve outcomes for patients with sight-threatening retinal conditions.”

She explained that Bayer is dedicated to providing ongoing support to the ophthalmology community in the UK and abroad in order to advance the clinical management of retinal conditions.

Eye services at Essex County Hospital will relocate to Colchester Primary Care Centre as part of the ongoing project to transfer all services from the Lexden Road hospital to Colchester General Hospital or into the community.