Published on: 14 April 2022

A new 24/7 emergency phone line for people with urgent eye problems will remain in place after proving to be a success with patients and reducing the need for unnecessary hospital visits.

The emergency number for Sunderland Eye Infirmary - 0191 5699952 - was introduced at the start of the pandemic to help those who did not want to come into hospital and to support social distancing. 

Patients with an urgent eye condition or injury are asked to contact the telephone number, rather than turn up at the Sunderland Eye Infirmary’s Emergency Eye Department.

They will then receive a phone consultation with an eye specialist practitioner or nurse over the phone. If the patient then needs to be seen face-to-face, arrangements will be made. 

The service has been widely praised by patients with 92% of patients surveyed rating their experience as positive or fairly positive and 94% saying that the emergency phone line should continue to be offered.

The phone line has helped to reduce the numbers of patients having to unnecessarily come down to the emergency eye department by providing expert advice and reassurance over the phone.

It has also helped reduce the number of visits for patients who need to attend as they are seen at the right time, by the right person when the required resources are available to diagnose and manage their condition.

Consultant Ophthalmologist, Mr Ajay Kotagiri, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Clinical Director for Ophthalmology, said: "Whilst the emergency phone line was launched in response to the pandemic, we have had lots of feedback from patients calling for it to remain in place. 

"The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides patients with immediate advice and reassurance on a number of urgent eye conditions and injuries. 

"In many cases, patients with minor conditions have been safely reassured over the phone and those with more serious problems now benefit from a pre-arranged time to attend the emergency eye department so we are ready to treat them straight away. 

"This means patients are getting the right advice, diagnosis and treatment at the right time and in a way that is much more convenient for them."

To protect patients and staff, the Trust is keeping infection, prevention and control measures in place and asking all patients and visitors to wear a mask, social distance and wash their hands regularly when in its buildings.

Advice for patients and the public:

  • Patients with an eye emergency are asked not to just turn up at the Emergency Eye Department at Sunderland Eye Infirmary but instead call the 24/7 emergency number on 0191 5699952 first
  • PLEASE NOTE – the 24/7 emergency phone line is for urgent eye conditions only and does not impact on other A&E services.
  • In many cases, patients can be seen in local services such as Minor Eye Conditions Service (MECS) which provides assessment and treatment for people with recently occurring minor eye problems. It is an NHS service provided by accredited optometrists.