PATIENTS needing eye care can now get their diagnostic tests in a new state-of-the-art centre officially opened today (Wednesday, May 11) on the outskirts of Taunton.

The ophthalmology diagnosis centre near Junction 25 of the M5 will annually see around 10,000 retinal and glaucoma patients, who will no longer need to visit Musgrove Park Hospital.

Patients will undergo a series of tests and images at the same appointment at Harrison House, on Blackbrook Business Park.

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has taken on the former Viridor premises as the demand for treatment for conditions such as glaucoma, cataract, retina and urgent care is predicted to rise by up to 60 per cent over the next 20 years.

The centre is in line with the NHS’s aim to develop a series of community diagnostic centres away from acute hospital sites such as Musgrove.

Edward Herbert, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a great step forward in delivering eye care across Somerset.

"We have been running imaging assessment clinics in the main hospital for a number of years and have found significant advantages.

“With clearer pathways of care, the clinics tend to run much more on time than a standard clinic and the length of time each patient needs to be in the unit is much shorter.

"Access to the clinic is also expected to be a good deal easier than the main hospital.

“Expanding these clinics off-site will help us catch up with the backlog from the pandemic and meet the future rising demand.”

Patients can enter through one door, move between different diagnostic stations during their appointment, then leave through a separate exit.

Rachel Adams, the nurse project lead for Harrison House, said: “This new diagnostic centre provides our patients with a one-stop shop where they can have all their diagnostic tests.

“Each test will take place during the same appointment, without needing to travel into the busy Musgrove Park Hospital site.

"The tests results will then be reviewed by the hospital clinicians and results will be sent to patients through the post.

“It’s staffed by a team of nurses and healthcare assistants with specialist training in retinal and glaucoma conditions, as well as administrators who will welcome and check in patients when they arrive at the centre."

Another ophthalmology diagnostic centre is also set to open in Yeovil this summer.

Shantanu Gudsoorkar, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon with the trust, said: “We’ve worked closely with healthcare planners at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and our ophthalmology colleagues at Yeovil District Hospital to develop a service that works for patients in Taunton, Yeovil and the rest of Somerset.

“This model of care allows the vast majority of our stable retinal and glaucoma patients to be seen at our centre with the decision-making process based on clinical data, such as visual acuity, eye pressure, optical coherence tomography, visual fields and wide-field retinal imaging.

“We have also introduced a specialist ophthalmology electronic medical records system called Medisight and have networked our ocular imaging systems across the five sites we operate from – Musgrove Park Hospital, Harrison House and the community hospitals at Bridgwater, Minehead and Chard.

"This allows our clinicians to access patient records and diagnostic data instantly on any site. Our consultants can provide immediate input regarding any urgent queries too.

“This seamless integration and accessibility of data across all five sites has been hugely beneficial allowing clinicians to work flexibly and provide patient care closer to home.”