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Health board to provide optometry service for the homeless

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s Primary Care Optometry Team recently held its first optometry service for homeless citizens in Cardiff. Having teamed up with local Dispensing Opticians and Optometrists and being supported by suppliers, Cardiff Council and the South East Locality Team, the service held its first session in November, with the intention to make this monthly, supporting local people to receive eye examinations and subsequent care.

The pilot scheme was inspired by Vision Care for Homeless People and local Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians volunteered their time to provide clinical sessions for patients who may not be accessing the healthcare they need. Taking place at a multidisciplinary centre in the heart of the city, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board provided specialist Optometry equipment to the newly refurbished clinical assessment room, ensuring both Optometrists and patients have a suitable and comfortable space to undertake examinations.

Jane Brown, Head of Dental and Optometry at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, commented: “It is important that our services are available and accessible to everyone who needs them, however we are aware that for certain cohorts of patients this may be more challenging. When we were approached by the Optometrists to offer clinical sessions at a purpose built, single assessment centre in Cardiff, the Primary Care Optometry Team aimed to kit out the rooms with appropriate equipment to create a comfortable and appropriate clinical space to conduct these assessments and provide a service.”

Sharon Beatty, Optometric Advisor at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, commented: “We were truly overwhelmed by the level of support from all of the stakeholders involved when we were co-ordinating the establishment of the service. Other Health Boards in Wales have contacted us to learn how we have established the service in Cardiff and we have shared the service pathway with them.

Led by Optometrist Vikki Ann Baker, the first session saw 11 homeless patients receive a clinical examination at the centre, with the majority of them requiring spectacles for further support. The collaborative approach between all stakeholders involved, ensures that the patients have access to spectacles and any additional referrals or intervention through the service.

Vikki commented: “I am really pleased with the success of the pilot programme and we are looking forward to running this on a monthly or bi-monthly basis going forward. The support for the programme has been incredibly valuable and this commitment has resulted in us being able to secure the equipment needed to deliver quality care and examinations in a safe and comfortable environment.”

The multidisciplinary centre has a variety of amenities and services available for citizens to access. Jayne Barrett, Primary Healthcare Nurse Cardiff Council Homeless MDT, is part of a wider team who champions support to this cohort of patients, creating an inclusive environment and services that can be accessed by anyone.

Jayne explained, “The support available at the centre is essential to this cohort of patients as we have removed any rigidity and taken our services to them. The multidisciplinary team provides a targeted, nuanced approach to care, offering a wraparound service for patients, which now includes optometry examinations and further support. Beyond this, we also offer diversionary services, providing activities for patients to partake in while they wait to be seen. This helps to create an inclusive, comfortable and positive space that embraces a variety of different specialities to reduce accessibility barriers and help patients to engage with services.”

With the next eye examination sessions scheduled towards the end of this month and again the following month, the community of support surrounding the centre aims to encourage even more patients to access services and wider support.