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Mobile glaucoma unit will help meet growing demand

15 April 2016

Health Care

Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is hosting a state-of-the-art mobile glaucoma unit on its main Prittlewell Chase, Westcliff site to help speed up waiting times for patients.

The fully-equipped facility has been provided by New Medica, a specialist eye care company which has worked in partnership with the NHS since 2007.

The unit is situated on the hospital site in front of the Diabetes Centre near the Education Centre and will be used to carry out diagnostic tests to support the hospital's own glaucoma clinics and will start on Monday April 18th.

Glaucoma is caused by a build-up of pressure in the eye which damages a nerve at the back of the eye.

The optic nerve carries visual information from the eye to the brain. The nerve is formed of approximately one million individual nerve fibres. Glaucoma can progressively damage these fibres, which leads to a slow loss of sight.

The condition affects approximately one in 50 people over the age of 40, rising to one in 10 over the age of 80.

Southend University Hospital's eye department provides eye care to patients across south Essex, including a satellite clinic at Orsett Hospital.

The team see more than 15,500 patients with glaucoma alone every year and some patients have had to wait longer than we would like for follow up appointments.

This is primarily due to a lack of capacity in the department to meet the growing demand, which is an issue not just for Southend but nationally. Ophthalmology is also recognised as one of the hard to recruit to areas across the NHS.

The mobile unit will not only help patients to be seen quicker, but will also act as a pilot during the year it will be on site.

Mr Simon Ruben, consultant ophthalmologist who specialises in glaucoma at Southend Hospital, said: "This is really exciting as the unit will support our own work in developing the service here at Southend and our ambition to move towards virtual clinics for many of our patients with stable glaucoma.

"This will enable our doctors to review up to 50 patients per clinic rather 12 in a face to face appointment.

"This work also compliments the service we have developed with our colleagues in primary care for a 'shared care' glaucoma service which means patients will no longer have to come to hospital to have their condition monitored on a regular basis and can be seen closer to home by specially trained optometrists in the community."