Find out what to expect when you come to our ophthalmology A&E.

During your appointment

If you have an eye emergency you can walk into the hospital and present yourself to reception where you will be seen by a specialist triage nurse and the urgency of your condition will be assessed. If you usually wear glasses please bring these to the emergency department. 

You may wait up to four hours to see the doctor depending on the urgency of your situation.

Please note that we are a teaching hospital, so medical students may be present for some appointments. If you do not wish to have them in the room please let the nurse or doctor know and the students will be asked to step outside.

After your visit to ophthalmology A&E

You may have one of several outcomes following your visit to the department:

  • You may be discharged completely with a short care plan, for example you may be given a prescription for a course of medication.
  • You may require a non-urgent follow-up appointment in an ophthalmology sub-specialty clinic, for example a glaucoma clinic. If this is the case, we will provide you with a letter to take to your GP so that they can refer you to their chosen provider. Please direct any questions about this appointment to your GP.
  • You may be asked to come back within one or two weeks for an urgent appointment, for example if you require intensive treatment at one of our sub-specialty clinics.
  • In some cases we may require another specialist opinion outside ophthalmology, so we may transfer your care to another service in the Trust or to another trust, or alternatively your GP may refer you to another service.

Patient information leaflets

  • Your visit to the Western Eye emergency department 

    The emergency department (ED) 

    The Western Eye Hospital’s ED is on the ground floor and provides emergency treatment for urgent or sight-threatening conditions only.

    If you sustain an eye injury and it’s not sight-threatening, your first port of call should be your local:

    • GP
    • optician
    • walk-in service, or
    • minor injuries department

    If, however, your condition is not resolved or worsens and it is an emergency, you should go to the ED.

    The Western Eye Hospital is open, 365 days a year, including bank holidays. Between 08.00 and 20.30, Monday to Friday, we have a team of between four and six practitioners working in the ED with access to specialist equipment.

    Between 20.30 and 08.00 please attend the emergency department at St-Mary’s hospital in Praed Street or Charring Cross Hospital. There is an ophthalmologist on call to give the staff in this department advice. They will attend to see you if your condition is urgent or sight threatening.


    Waiting time

    We are part of an acute trauma NHS Trust so, sometimes, we have to deal immediately with patients with sight-threatening emergencies. This may cause delays within the department but we will keep you updated as best we can. Please bear with us.

    Waiting times vary but you can wait up to four hours to see a doctor due to the complexity of emergencies. Please remember to tell one of the nursing staff or receptionists if you decide to leave the ED.


    Coming to your appointment

    1. Registration

    The receptionist will ask for your personal details, including your GP’s details and next of kin (emergency contact).

    They will then ask you to wait in the waiting room before being triaged.

    • If your emergency has been caused by blunt trauma, chemical injury or sudden loss of vision, please tell the receptionist when you register

    • If you are from overseas (non-EU) or would like to be seen privately, please tell the receptionist

     2. Triage

    A specialist nurse will assess you to work out how urgently you need to receive treatment.

    Next you will either be directed to see the assessment nurse or asked to wait in the waiting area. This will depend on the number of patients in the department needing urgent assessment and treatment.


    3. Assessment nurse
    Following your triage, investigations and procedures might be needed. These might include:

    • checking your vision (distance vision)
    • checking your eye pressure
    • drops (to either enlarge your pupils or help with pain)
    • eye scans
    • minor urgent surgical procedures


    If we need to examine the back of your eye (fundus) we need to instil drops to enlarge the pupil which can last up to six hours. Therefore, we advise you not to drive during this time. 


     4. Eye examination

    An advanced clinical practitioner or a doctor will exam your eye(s) and you may have additional investigations and treatments.

    5. What happens after my assessment?
    There are three potential outcomes:

    • we provide medical treatment and advice before discharging you
    • we refer you to an outpatient ophthalmology department directly in less than two weeks or via the GP if it’s a routine referral to your local hospital provider
    • we refer you to another hospital directly if urgent or via your GP if routine

    You can download your visit to the Western Eye emergency department leaflet