Professor Stephen Vernon, what will be important to professionals in the eye health and sight loss sectors in 2018?

Post date: 
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Photo of Professor Stephen Vernon

After welcoming in the New Year, it’s often an automatic reaction for many of us to think about what the next 12 months will hold. Hannah Adams, editor of NB Online asked a number of key leaders in the eye health and sight loss sector what they think will be important for professionals in 2018.

Professor Stephen Vernon, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon and Vice President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists

What developments do you think will be important to the eye health sector in 2018?
We need to establish equality of access to eye surgery, in particular the miracle that is modern cataract surgery, by convincing clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that purchasing surgery is cost-effective in terms of improving quality of life. Quality of life isn’t just improved with corrected vision, but by reducing morbidity from falls, depression and other factors known to be more common in patients with cataract.
Do you have any professional New Year's resolutions for 2018?
My resolutions are to continue to develop partnerships between ophthalmologists and the third sector in order to improve the patient experience within ophthalmic care. In particular I am determined to be closely involved with the series of “shared decision making” aids that I am working on with the help of many committed representatives of the sector.
What are your individual priorities at the RCOphth for next year?
As a pioneer of developing working partnerships with optometrists in outpatient glaucoma management, I hope to assist to push forward the common clinical competencies framework project. The future for much ophthalmic care should be in the community rather than in overworked specialist centres, where more time is needed to concentrate on conditions that only ophthalmologists should manage.
In your view, what has been the biggest breakthrough in 2017?
The development of microdrop dosing technology as described at the American Academy Meeting in November 2017. This technology enables the delivery of drugs in the same strength, but in much lower volumes than traditional drop bottles. This should reduce adverse events from the active agents within the drops as well as from any necessary preservatives; thereby reducing unintended effects from ongoing treatment such as is required in glaucoma.
How did you enjoy judging the Professional of the Year Award at the RNIB Vision Pioneer Awards?
I found it an uplifting experience. At the sharp end of patient management and with a large clinical workload, consultants such as myself rarely have the time to see what happens to our patients in terms of ancillary ophthalmic care. This care can improve the quality of life of our patients enormously. I hope that all finalists took my advice to publicise their success in their local workplace to promote their work within the ophthalmic arena.
How important do you feel ECLOs are to patient care?
In an era where ophthalmic nurses are becoming a scarce commodity and those that remain are hard-pressed to perform clinical duties, the ECLO provides a much needed source of information and support to those of our patients who need their expertise. In short they are an invaluable member of the ophthalmic team and once you and your patients have experienced their input, you do not want to be without them!