ROYAL Bolton Hospital has launched a unique 'drive-thru' service for glaucoma patients struggling with waiting times.

With lockdown regulations impacting access to services across many different areas of the hospital, the Ophthalmology Department is heading out into the community to offer10 minute pre-screening appointments.

In what is thought to be a first for the NHS in England, the drive-thru service offers a COVID-19 safe glaucoma test that checks the pressure in the eyes, allowing the Ophthalmology team to better assess and prioritise the needs of glaucoma patients.

The simple test helps them to determine those patients whose eye pressures are stable and those whose pressures have increased and so need to attend the clinic for further assessment and treatment.

Sonia Nosheen, operational business manager, ophthalmology unit said: “It has been wonderful to see what the whole unit from managers, doctors, nurses, technicians, orthoptists, optometrists and admin team have all set up.

"The team were inspired by a similar project in Belfast, and after consultation, worked together to make it happen.

"During the current climate, the team has pulled together to find an alternative way of seeing patients without bringing them on to the hospital site.

“Uptake has been really good. We have been fortunate to find a central location at Queen's Campus, which has been kindly donated by the University of Bolton.

"The drive-thru will be operational for six weeks and we are seeing around 30 patients a day, which is important to help maintain social distancing guidelines at the hospital site.”

Clare Rogers, clinical lead for glaucoma, said: “Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of sight loss in the UK.

"The majority of patients do not know when their eye pressure is high and so monitoring is very important.

"The Glaucoma Service looks after a large number of patients and many have had their appointments delayed due to the Coronovirus pandemic.

"The drive-thru enables us to reduce the waiting times whilst minimising the risk to patients by avoiding the hospital. It will help us to ensure that urgent patients, needing further assessment and treatment, are seen quickly.”

Through the use of a system called OpenEyes it has been possible to safely capture the results from the test and then have a senior clinician review them to determine what the next step should be.

Patients who are unable to attend the drive-thru screenings are still being seen at the usual clinics in the Ophthalmology Unit at the hospital.

Angela Knowles, a patient who used the service, said: “I think it is better, miles better.

"There wasn’t a queue and we were straight in and out. We came early because we thought that we would be queuing around the block or that they might not be on time, but it was so quick, far more efficient.

“The lady explained the procedure really well. I have never had anything done with my eyes at the hospital before and she explained everything really well. I was referred by my optician back in February and I did manage to get an appointment for March but I knew it would be cancelled.

“It is a relief to finally get it done, it has been great.”