A new organisation, Primary Eyecare Gloucestershire (PEG), has been awarded the contract to provide community eye health services for the county.

PEG was formed last year by Gloucestershire Local Optical Committee (LOC). It manages a network of established and experienced optometrists which includes both independent practices and chains such as Specsavers and Vision Express.

The new service will give patients convenient access to the right services closer to where they live through community opticians. This should reduce the need for some people to wait for hospital appointments and reduce their anxieties.

The service also aims to raise awareness of conditions such as glaucoma, and encourage people, particularly those who are high risk, to get their eyesight tested so that any symptoms can be treated before the condition becomes serious.

The community optometrists will also have good opportunities to develop and extend their skills and the new service will see them working more closely with hospital clinicians and building links with voluntary organisations.

New services will be introduced over the course of this year from June, starting with glaucoma and cataract services.

The second phase in the autumn will introduce treatment for specific minor eye conditions whilst changes to children’s services will be introduced at the end of the year.

GP and Clinical Lead for Eye Care at the CCG, Dr Grahame Mennie, said:

“We are really pleased to have awarded the contract to PEG and are excited about working with them to ensure high quality community eye care services that will reduce avoidable sight loss for people in Gloucestershire.”

With high levels of expertise around the county in its community optical practices, PEG is well equipped to provide excellent treatment and service.”

Professor Andrew McNaught, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“The PEG initiative should allow us to provide care closer to home for our eye patients. It will also reduce some of the pressures on hospital eye services, which have become much busier in recent years due to new treatments and our ageing population.”

Dermot Keogh, Communications Director at PEG, said:

“PEG are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver NHS eye care services from community optical practices. Services just like this are available across the UK, and now Gloucestershire’s citizens will benefit from expert care closer to home.

Patient care, education and reducing preventable sight loss are at the heart of PEG and community optometry.”

PEG was assessed in 2015 by a panel which included optometrists, GPs, Health Watch and patient representatives, NHS commissioners and contractors. The contract was awarded in May 2016.