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Eye emergencies

The eye emergency department (eye casualty) is a specialist emergency department for urgent sight and eye conditions including trauma. We are based at Southampton General Hospital, and treat over 25,000 patients a year. We are a major regional centre and the biggest in the south east of England.

We see people in clinical priority order, this means seeing the most serious cases first.

If Southampton General Hospital is not your local NHS hospital, you should always contact your local hospital first (unless you are an existing patient of the Southampton eye unit, or have been specifically referred here). Many other trusts within Hampshire also have on-call specialist eye doctors available for emergencies 24 hours a day.

Opening hours (updated due to COVID-19 pandemic)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we had had to make significant changes to the access of our service.

If you have an eye emergency, please come immediately to our department between

  • 8am and 7pm, Monday to Friday
  • 8am and 7pm, Saturday and Sunday

Outside of these hours, please attend the main hospital emergency department.

What is an eye emergency?

If you have any of the following please attend the eye emergency department immediately:

  • A chemical injury (make sure you immediately irrigate the eye with water for 15 to 20 minutes while making your way here)
  • Severe trauma such as a penetrating eye injury
  • Total loss of vision
  • Excruciating pain
  • Your eyelid is so swollen the eye cannot be seen at all.

The eye casualty is not a walk in clinic. If your condition does not fit into the above, please call us for advice on 023 8120 6592.

If your nearest general hospital is Queen Alexandra Portsmouth, Winchester, Salisbury, Frimley Park, Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Guildford or in London, you should contact your local hospital first as they have emergency departments. Many also have on-call specialist eye doctors available for emergencies 24 hours a day.

If you are unsure or if you do not meet the criteria of an eye emergency, you are required to call our telephone triage line (023 8120 6592) which is available 8am to 7.30pm weekdays, and 8am to 6pm on weekends and bank holidays.

We will advise as to whether you need to attend our department or if we can help you over the phone.

If you have an urgent eye problem outside of these hours, please contact your GP to access their out of hour’s service or call 111 for further advice. An ophthalmologist is on call in case of an emergency.

What happens when I come in?

Find out what happens when you visit the eye emergency department.

Please note that you should not drive yourself to the hospital as many of our patients are given eye drops which can affect your vision. If you are given these you will not be able to drive home.

Minor eye condition service (MECS) and COVID-19 urgent eyecare service (CUES)

There is also a community minor eye condition service (MECS) and COVID-19 urgent eyecare service (CUES), who you should consult for less serious problems or those that have been going on for some weeks.

You should not use MECS if you have recently had eye surgery. Please call us if you are unsure if the service is suitable for you.

The following conditions are suitable for these services:

  • dry, gritty, irritable and uncomfortable eyes
  • foreign bodies in the eye
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • red eye or eyelids
  • ingrowing eyelashes
  • significant recent sticky discharge from the eye or watery discharge
  • recent and sudden changes in vision including flashes or floaters.

To find out which is your nearest participating urgent eyecare service (CUES) or minor eye conditions (MECS) optical practice, go to the Primary Eyecare website.

Find us

If you need to visit eye casualty or the eye unit, please park in the blue car park at Southampton General.

The department is located behind Ronald McDonald House, at the bottom of the ambulance slope. There is also a pick up and drop off point located outside the eye unit.

Contact us

Call us on 023 8120 6592.