Eye emergencies: what happens when I come in?

Arriving at eye casualty

When you arrive please book in at reception. You will be asked for your name, date of birth, address and GP details and what your eye problem is.

After this your vision will be checked and your problem assessed.

Vision check and assessment

A nurse or health care assistant will check your vision by covering each eye and asking you to read letters from a chart.

Your distance vision is always checked so you must bring any glasses you wear for driving or watching television .

You will also be asked about your eye condition and your general health.

It is very important that you mention any allergies and medication you are currently taking.

If you have already brought or been prescribed medication for your eyes you should bring it with you.

If you normally wear contact lenses you will probably be asked to take them out so bring spare glasses with you as you may not be able to wear your contact lenses home.

Do not drive yourself to the hospital as many patients are given eye drops which dilate the pupils and blur the vision for a few hours. If you are given these you will not be able to drive home.

Once your vision has been checked you will be asked to sit in the waiting room until a nurse practitioner or doctor calls you for an examination.

Your vision will be checked every time you attend eye casualty as things may have changed since your last visit.

Eye examination

Your eye will be examined using a microscope with a light attachment, like those used at the opticians.

You may be given eye drops to show scratches or marks on the front of the eyes or local anaesthetic drops.

If the doctor needs to examine the retina eye drops will be used to dilate your pupils. These take about 15 minutes to work and won't wear off completely for about six hours (your vision will be slightly blurred until they wear off). If it is a sunny day you may need to bring sunglasses with you for comfort. You will not be able to drive yourself home.

The doctor or nurse will discuss your eye condition with you and advise you about any treatment you may need.

If you need prescription eye medication, you will be given a prescription or you may be given a supply of eye drops. If you pay for prescriptions you will be billed for each bottle of drops at the standard prescription charge.

For some conditions you will be advised to buy eye drops or other medication at a pharmacy as it will be cheaper.

Your eye may need to be examined by a senior doctor and this may mean waiting for them to be free to see you. You will be told by your nurse or doctor how long your wait is likely to be.

A few patients may need immediate or urgent treatment such as medication or laser treatment before they go home. This will be fully explained to you if it is required.

Types of treatment

Many patients only require eye drops to treat their eye condition.

Some patients may need a referral to a consultant (ophthalmologist) for further examination, ongoing treatment or surgery. If this is required you will have a letter sent to you at a later date.

A few patients may need urgent treatment or surgery on the same day. If this is the case you will be given a full explanation and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

Waiting times

Waiting times depend on how busy the unit is, including how many patients are waiting to be seen, and the nature of the emergency.

Usually most patients who have a straightforward eye condition which can be seen and treated by a nurse practitioner will be in eye casualty about an hour.

However, if you need to see a doctor, and especially if you have a visual disturbance, you may need to be there for up to three hours or longer.

Follow-up appointments   

If you need a follow-up appointment you will need to make this at the reception before you leave. Please bear in mind that the time we give you is a booking-in time, and that emergency patients will be given priority.

Patients who need to attend a consultant-led clinic will be referred by the nurse or doctor and will receive a letter with an eye outpatient appointment.

Alternatively, you may be advised to see your own GP for referral if the condition is not improving with the treatment and advice.

If you would normally be seen in Winchester, Salisbury or the Isle of Wight we will endeavour to arrange for your follow-up appointment to be there. We cannot arrange urgent follow-up appointments in outlying clinics.

If you live out of the area, we usually give your GP a letter and advise you to contact them to arrange a follow-up appointment.

Informing your GP

Your doctor should receive a letter after your first visit with a diagnosis and initial treatment. Letters are not automatically sent after follow-up visits.

Repeat prescriptions

You will be given a prescription for up to one month's supply of eye drops or medication. If you are likely to need more than this, you can get repeat prescriptions from your GP.

If you are not entitled to free prescriptions you will be charged for each item. If you need more than four prescription items in three months or 14 items in 12 months, you could save money by buying a prescription payment certificate (PPC).

Find out more about prescription costs.

What to do if your eye doesn't improve

Unless we advised you to see your GP, please telephone eye casualty on 023 8120 6592.

We welcome your feedback

When you book in at reception, you'll be given a feedback card called the Friends and Family Test. We ask that you complete it at the end of your visit, to give us valuable feedback on our service. This ensures your views are listened to, and enables us to continually improve.