The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, dropped in to Monnow Eyecare on Cinderhill Street last week, to see for himself the recent commitment by the Welsh Government of a multi million pound investment to support Optometry in Wales.

A contract, initiated on October 20th, is seen as a vital step in advancing eyecare services in the county by moving a significant amount of eyecare into the community.

Mr Drakeford showed his support by visiting their clinic to observe firsthand how these services will be implemented and benefit the local community.

Helen Tilley, Director and senior IP optometrist at Monnow Eyecare, commented on the significance of the new contract, saying, “We are thrilled to have the support of the Welsh Government in our mission to enhance eyecare services in Wales. This investment will enable us to expand our capabilities and provide even more comprehensive care to our community.”

Monnow Eyecare, founded 16 years ago, has experienced impressive growth, expanding to three consulting rooms and attracting a loyal customer base, especially among patients aged 60 and above. The practice currently has six highly skilled part-time optometrists, each with specialised qualifications and clinical expertise.

Helen Tilley, who also chairs the Welsh Optometric Committee and has IP and Glaucoma higher qualifications , shared her enthusiasm for the new contract. “This investment will not only allow us to monitor stable glaucoma and OHT in the community but also triage glaucoma referrals efficiently. We will be able to receive emergency eyecare referrals from other practices saving the patient , on many occasions, having to go to eye casualty. We are proud to be at the forefront of upskilling the eyecare profession in Wales.”

Monnow Eyecare has been running a Glaucoma Ophthalmic Diagnostic Treatment Centre (ODTC) for over six years, seeing a substantial increase in patients from twenty to almost one hundred a month. The practice played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic by running an emergency service to support the NHS, treating patients in the community and keeping hospital spaces available for the most serious cases.

The practice has successfully integrated Low Vision services since its inception and looks forward to expanding its clinical work as the new contract rolls out. The commitment to providing exceptional care has enabled Monnow Eyecare to retain most patients when IP cover is available.

One of the highlights of the First Minister’s visit was conversations with patients who have benefitted from Monnow Eyecare’s services. Rosemary Green, a glaucoma patient from Llanellen shared their positive experience with the service, emphasising the preference for community-based care. Additionally, the Minister spoke to Valerie Heales from Caldicot, a low vision patient, who praised the excellent service and the certification of her sight impairment, a part of the new contract.

Asked how he saw the contracts helping out the Welsh NHS, Mark Drakeford told the Beacon: “The key thing for us, is we have these incredibly skilled group of people in the community, we have to make the very most of what they are able to do so as I’ve seen here today, they are able to come here rather than make the long journeys and you can come somewhere where you know you are going to get a service that meets your needs and that’s a win for everybody and that’s the journey we are on in Wales, moving more activity on to the high street, more conveniently, making use of people’s skills and relieving some of the pressure that is otherwise on our hospitals”.