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West Suffolk: Pioneering project by West Suffolk Hospital takes eye care out to the communities

14:09 08 April 2014

Newmarket patient Frank Billam with Stuart McGill, head orthoptist from West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Newmarket patient Frank Billam with Stuart McGill, head orthoptist from West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

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Eye patients in Sudbury and Newmarket can have expert assessments closer to home after West Suffolk Hospital became the country’s first to use specialist diagnostic equipment in the community.

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The new initiative has seen the hospital launch an OCT (optical coherence tomography) scanning service for patients with a range of conditions that need regular monitoring, including age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Instead of having to travel to Bury St Edmunds for monthly checks, patients can now access the scans at Walnuttree and Newmarket Hospitals. The results will determine how often they need to come to the main hospital for treatment.

The service has been made possible after West Suffolk purchased two state-of-the-art Zeiss Cirrus 600 diagnostic machines with a £114,000 medical equipment grant from Novartis.

Around 50 patients a month are already benefitting, with that number expected to increase during the summer. James Butcher, operational manager for head and neck specialities at the hospital, said: “The whole project ties in closely with our philosophy of providing care closer to home and, where possible, sees us taking services to the patient rather than the other way around.

“Patients in the Newmarket and Sudbury areas would previously have had their condition monitored through regular trips to the hospital, sometimes as often as once a month.

“Many of our patients who have these conditions are older, so to come into Bury to the hospital so often could be a burden for those living further afield.

“Now images can be taken at much more convenient locations and either viewed by a consultant on site or sent back to West Suffolk to be reviewed remotely in a virtual clinic. We hope the new service will save them time while reducing waiting lists by increasing the number of patients we are able to see.”

Over the coming months, the hospital also hopes to start offering treatment in Sudbury and Newmarket, further reducing the need for patients to travel.

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