NHS Scotland staff are being encouraged to come up with ‘fresh ideas’ to treat patients who may be prone to the sight loss condition glaucoma.

To coincide with World Glaucoma Week this week, clinicians are being urged to consider breakthrough treatments which could prevent more people from deteriorating vision.

NHS innovation partner InnoScot Health believes ophthalmology is “ripe for innovation” and there are both ways to develop new treatments and help to offset the debilitating condition.

Robert Rea, head of innovation, InnoScot Health, said: “Progressive-minded NHS Scotland staff can be instrumental in the drive for new ophthalmic breakthroughs, in turn helping to stop glaucoma in its tracks.

“Indeed, high-quality, inclusive eyecare during this pivotal time of recovery and reform can undoubtedly improve patient outcomes and deliver new treatment options.

“World Glaucoma Week is an opportune time for innovators at all stages to consider current approaches while looking to identify fresh ideas. It is clear ophthalmology is an area that is ripe for innovation, and encouraging staff to think about improvements could lead to real advances in patient treatment and care, but also early diagnosis of other life-changing conditions such as glaucoma.

“There are so many possibilities – from predictive artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to further advancing remote triaging through telehealth. One exciting example of developing technologies that can detect glaucoma is the anticipated ability to analyse the daily fluctuations of intraocular pressure (IOP) through innovations such as smart contact lenses which can transmit data from the eye to a mobile phone or cloud system.

“It is important to remember though that innovation doesn’t have to be technologically sophisticated. It can also be simple ideas that do more with less, inspired by the vast knowledge accrued by staff working tirelessly every day.”

Charity Sight Scotland reported that around 188,000 people in Scotland are affected by some form of sight loss – and that figure is expected to double by 2031 with glaucoma considered to be the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness.

A new national NHS service in Scotland called the Community Glaucoma Service (CGS) was recently introduced, providing a new means by which patients who have lower risk glaucoma or ocular hypertension, and who have been under the care of the Hospital Eye Service, could be discharged to receive care from CGS accredited providers in the community.

However, ophthalmic innovation from within NHS Scotland can yet unlock more solutions amid an increasing number of treatments for glaucoma patients, including fresh laser-led and minimally invasive procedures.

Glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve, tends to occur very gradually, so the patient is often unaware they are affected until substantial vision has been lost.