N.I.   P.E.A.R.S.   




For use by GP practices, Community Pharmacists and Self referring Patients .



This new service is an HSC (Health and Social Care) board funded optometric primary eye care intervention service for patients presenting with acute eye problems.


GP’s and Pharmacists may now refer patients presenting with a new and acute (sudden or recent onset) eye condition, to a specially trained and examined in Minor Eye Conditions (MECS), accredited Optometrist for assessment. 


The Optometrist will provide an appointment within 48 hours and will investigate and either manage the patient, if it is a minor non-sight threatening condition, or triage them for appropriate onward referral if more serious and potentially sight threatening. 



Please note that patients may self-refer into the service or be referred by their GP, practice nurse, surgery receptionist or Community Pharmacist. Patients may be referred to any of the listed optometry practices. If they already attend one of these Optometry practices they should be encouraged to attend their own practice.






The following patients may be referred for an NI PEARS assessment to a participating Optometry practice.


 1) Patients presenting with sudden or very recent onset of acute eye related problems e.g. red eye, painful eye, sudden loss or disturbance of vision, sudden onset of flashes and floaters.




2) Patients must be registered with a General Medical Practitioner (GP) in Northern Ireland and therefore have a current Northern Ireland Health and Care Number (HCN).





The following patients are NOT eligible for referral to an accredited Optometrist for an NI PEARS Assessment: 



1) Ophthalmic conditions requiring immediate, urgent referral to HES. For example: acute trauma, penetrating eye injury, chemical burn, orbital cellulitis. Patients with these ophthalmic conditions should be referred to secondary care immediately in line with Eye Casualty protocols. 



2) Headaches unless associated with sudden onset visual changes - patients presenting with headaches may be entitled to a General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) sight test, if eligible. Please note eligibility will depend on when the patient last had a GOS test and if the time interval is as recommended in Department of Health intervals for GOS Sight Tests – the optometrist should be able to advise on this. If the patient is not eligible for GOS or NI PEARS the optometrist will have to charge the patient for a private sight test or, advise the patient to attend their GP.



3) Patients with long term/chronic ophthalmic conditions, for example: previously diagnosed diabetic retinopathy, long standing diplopia, long standing/previously investigated dry eye or blepharitis, unless the presenting sudden onset symptoms are for something unrelated to their chronic condition.  This service is only for assessment of patients with acute, sudden onset conditions.



4) Children under 5 years old. These patients presenting with an acute eye condition must be seen either by their GP or the hospital eye service.



FEE LEVELS  Paid by HSC to the Optometric Practice


The current fee levels for providing a  NI PEARS assessment to patients registered with a General Medical Practitioner in Northern Ireland are:


 £40 for the primary (first) assessment


 £15 for a follow-up appointment – this must only be provided in line with College of Optometrists guidelines


Reminder: A fee can normally only be claimed for one NI PEARS assessment and one follow-up if required, per patient per year. In exceptional circumstances a further NI PEARS assessment may be provided, and claimed for, within a year but this requires agreement with a HSCB Optometric Clinical Adviser in line with procedures.

During Holiday periods when one of our branches may be closed ,please contact an alternative branch of SJB Barbour . Or if our Larne shop is closed, please contact Kenneth Wilson Opticians, who have agreed to see our emergency cases when we can not!

To make an appointment
















East Belfast


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