Alongside working as an optometrist at Specsavers practices in Chesterfield and Matlock, Alex Howard is a clinical governance and performance lead for Primary Eyecare Services.
Alex who designed and coordinated the roll out of CUES in Derbyshire, highlighted that being involved in CUES gave him a sense of purpose during the initial stage of the pandemic.
‘It is about having the chance to contribute in some way during a time when our services were most valuable to people,’ he said.
‘At the beginning, it was scary. You almost forgot how scary it was because we just didn’t know what the virus was or whether we were putting ourselves at risk. I feel really proud about the way that a lot of people stepped up to the plate.
He has seen a significant increase in the number of practices that are involved in CUES or MECS in Derbyshire over the course of the pandemic.
‘Being involved in the service gives practitioners variety within their working day.
‘There is a feeling that everyone is working together towards something bigger,’ he said.
Alex noted that CUES gives patients an option for accessing eye care locally at a time when many patients have reservations about hospital.
He shares the example of a patient who was seen through CUES after developing flashers and floaters just before Christmas.
After an examination revealed a retinal tear, he was urgently referred to hospital for treatment. The same patient was referred to hospital again through the service in February with a retinal tear in the other eye.
‘In that case, we had a gentleman who, without any intervention, would have permanently lost vision in both eyes,’ he shared.
Turning to the future of urgent eye care, Alex would like to see equal access to care: ‘Different patients receiving different care depending on the postcode is really simply not fair. I think more services should be comparable between areas. There should never be gaps in provision.’
He also believes that practitioners should be trusted within the service specification to make decisions about what degree of care is best for their patient.
For example, telemedicine is a core element of CUES at present.
‘It doesn’t necessarily need to be mandatory in my mind. Some cases are dealt with really well through telemedicine and it definitely has its value but there are other things where you know that the patient just needs to be seen face to face. I think the practitioner should have the autonomy to decide over that,’ he highlighted.
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