AN OPTOMETRIST in Alloa has stepped up during lockdown to support patients as part of a pilot initiative.

Linda Hunter at LA Hunter Optometrists on Drysdale Street was part of a great collaboration in the Forth Valley in a bid to provide emergency eyecare during the coronavirus lockdown.

Her involvement in the development of a pioneering virtual emergency consultation programme for eye patients even saved the sight of a Clacks patient.

Linda said: "Absolutely no one was prepared for the whole world to be turned on its head by a global pandemic.

"The speed at which a whole nation had to change everything at a moment's notice was breathtaking."

LA Hunter Optometrists, which served as one of three hubs in the area where patients could be seen face-to-face, have been supporting the development of a tele-ophthalmology system in the Forth Valley.

Using a live video feed and a slit-lamp microscope, the initiative enables optometrists to dial in eye doctors during live examination.

Working with Dr Iain Livingstone, one of the project leads, Linda had all the technology in place to be involved in an initial study while also carrying out remote consultations or triage over the phone.

During lockdown, a patient of Linda presented with a retinal detachment which threatened their sight.

Linda dialled in to Falkirk where an ophthalmologist could see the detachment on a detailed scan.

He then dialled in a retinal specialist ophthalmologist at Gartnavel in Glasgow who asked Linda to carry out a live examination so that he could see exactly what had happened.

The patient was consequently sent straight to Gartnavel from the consulting room for sight saving surgery that day – without having to attend hospital for a diagnosis first.

Linda said: "This system worked well for all involved and patient feedback proved that people really appreciated being seen within the community and avoiding trips to the hospital.

"This had already proven innovative, patient friendly and successful in the pilot study prior to lockdown and things look positive for it becoming part of routine practice within many practices in Scotland in the future."

She added: "When lockdown was announced, there was great collaboration between the ophthalmologists and community optometrists in Forth Valley to find a prompt solution to providing emergency eye care.

"The eye clinic in Falkirk very quickly got three hub centres organised in different geographical locations to cover the whole of Forth Valley.

"This resulted in three practices serving the whole of Forth Valley with community optometrists referring their patients to the nearest Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centre."

Linda volunteered her practice to do all she could to help in what was a very difficult situation.

It is understood she is also the only optometrist in the area who has completed a post graduate qualification in therapeutic prescribing.

This means she can issue a prescription when required, saving patients trips to the eye clinic or GP.