PATIENTS needing treatment for eye problems may no longer have to go to hospital, thanks to an optician.

Haroon Ahmed has become the first optician in Blackburn with Darwen to receive a qualification which will allow him to prescribe medication to eye patients.

With an ageing population, there is burgeoning demand for eye (opthalmology) appointments at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust.

And due to a strained NHS budget, this can mean long waiting times and disgruntled patients.

Historically, when optometrists find a problem with a patient’s eyes, following diagnosis they would then refer the patient to a hospital who would prescribe the medication required to treat the problem.

Now qualified with the Diploma in Independent Therapeutic Prescribing through the College of Optometrists, Mr Ahmed can prescribe almost any medication and therefore the patient may not even need to visit a hospital.

Independent Prescribing enables optometrists to clinically assess a patient, establish a diagnosis, determine the clinical management required and prescribe where necessary.

As it stands, Mr Ahmed is the only optometrist in Blackburn with Darwen to have completed this diploma.

Mr Ahmed, head optometrist at Tyrrells and Embery Optometry, on Darwen Street, Blackburn, is keen to raise awareness of this service and is hoping to encourage fellow optometrists to follow suit.

He said: “This will hugely benefit our local hospital eye department, but more importantly the patients.

“When I received the qualification, I was shocked to find nobody else had the qualification in Blackburn with Darwen.

“This is a game changer, as the number of hospital outpatient appointments has increased by 24 per cent between 2010 and 2016.

“There is a huge burden on the NHS and the hospitals are really struggling with cancelled appointments for eye tests.

“Demand is so much higher and something needs to change, so if more opticians can prescribe medication and take pressure off hospitals, that will only help.”

Mr Ahmed was speaking as Tyrrells and Embery Optometry celebrates its 90th year in business.

Tyrrells and Embery Optometry has become one of Lancashire’s leading independent optical practices.

Mr Ahmed added: “At Tyrrells and Embery we have always pushed the boundaries and are proud to offer a personal service to our patients and the local community.

“We are celebrating our ninetieth year in business this year and we are constantly striving to be at the cutting edge of technology, investing in new equipment to benefit our patients.”

He invited Blackburn’s MP Kate Hollern to visit the opticians last Friday to help generate awareness in the local community.

Mrs Hollern welcomed the news.

She said: “This is fantastic news for patients and will take pressure off hospitals.

“It will also hopefully save people’s sight as early intervention is critical.

“We only have one set of eyes,” said Mrs Hollern.