The dramatic increase in need for anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) intravitreal therapy in the treatment of retinal disease and the absence of an equivalent increase in ophthalmologists to undertake such intravitreal injections created a patient-safety risk. Timing of intravitreal therapy (IVT) is critical to prevent vision loss and local clinics lacked capacity to treat patients appropriately. We aimed to improve capacity for IVT by nurse injections.
Materials and methods
A multidisciplinary prospective service-improvement process was undertaken at two adjacent general hospitals in the northwest of England. IVT injections by nurses were a principal component of solution development. After we had obtained appropriate institutional approval, experienced ophthalmic nurses were trained, supervised, and assessed to undertake IVT. Ophthalmologists directly supervised the first 200 injections, and a retina specialist was always on site.
Nurses undertook 3,355 intravitreal injections between June 2012 and November 2013, with minor adverse events (0.3% subconjunctival hemorrhage and corneal abrasion). There were no patient complaints at either hospital.
Experienced ophthalmic nurses quickly learned how to perform such injections safely. IVT by nurses was well accepted by patients and staff. Hospital A trained three nurses sequentially for improved flexibility in scheduling. Novel use of appropriately trained non-medical staff can improve efficiency and access in an overburdened service with time-sensitive disease. Retinal assessment was undertaken by ophthalmologists only. Improved access to IVT is important, as treatment with anti-VEGF therapy reduces blindness at population levels.