Emergency Ophthalmology: RF

NCL Wide
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Emergency treatment for urgent sight-threatening conditions.

GPs are encouraged to send patients to the closest available emergency eye clinic.

Find the closest emergency eye unit using the interactive eye-casualty services map.

The urgent eye service at the Royal Free Hospital serves a large population within NCL and manages a range of acute ophthalmic complaints including trauma. It is a service that functions 24 hours a day throughout the year with a mix of on and off-site cover, and is a referral-based service. During the Covid period the service continues to see patients.

Eligibility criteria


  • patients within NCL
  • adult and paediatric service (though some of the acutely unwell children may need to be referred to the paediatric teams at our Whittington or Barnet sites and then seen by the on call Ophthalmologist)
  • patients with urgent, sight threatening problems such as:
    • penetrating/blunt eye injury
    • chemical/thermal burns to eye
    • giant cell arteritis with visual symptoms
    • flashes & floaters of recent onset
    • sudden loss of vision
    • retinal detachment
    • acute corneal ulcers such as contact lens related
    • acute cranial nerve paresis
    • corneal abrasions
    • corneal foreign bodies
    • symptoms of acute angle closure glaucoma
    • optometry referrals for pressures >30mmHg 


  • patients already under the care of another Ophthalmic department
  • patients looking for a second opinion 
  • non urgent eye conditions such as dry eye, blepharitis, cataract etc

How to refer

The following clinicians can refer to this service: GPs

Directly by telephone

020 7794 0500

t: 020 7794 0500

extension 33625, bleep 1758


Referral methods: e-Referrals

Open Monday–Friday 9am-4pm and Saturday–Sunday 10am-3pm. Out of these hours the on call is off site.

Emergencies are seen in Clinic 3 on the first floor. 

Walk-ins to the clinic are not available and patients wishing to be seen must be referred after discussion with the Ophthalmologist on call. They can be contacted via the switch board. 


If the patient needs to be seen within 24–48 hours: the emergency eye doctor should be bleeped – GPs should call 020 7794 0500 extension 33625 or bleep 1758. This can be done via the switchboard.

After this a referral document can be emailed to rf.eyecasualty@nhs.net


If the patient needs to be seen within 2–4 weeks please send a referral letter via the e-Referral system.

If you are not sure if it is urgent or emergency please contact the emergency eye doctor and discuss. 


If out of clinic hours patients with emergencies can self refer and are seen in the main accident and emergency where they are triaged and assessed by a general physician and then the case discussed with the Ophthalmologist who is on call.


For urgent cancer referrals see the 2WW page.


Royal Free Hospital