MPs and Peers pledge support for equal access for all eye patients to timely treatment to prevent loss of vision
10 November 2016
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) hosted a successful parliamentary reception at Westminster on the 2 November. Over 35 MPs and Peers met with members of the Royal College to learn about the demand placed on hospital eye services and the impact on patients. MPs and Peers were asked to give their pledge to support equal access to timely treatment for all eye patients.
Lord Patel of Dunkeld welcomed everyone to the first ever parliamentary reception held by the RCOphth and SNP’s Dr Philippa Whitford MP, the key note speaker added, ‘When someone loses their sight, it’s a terrible thing for the patient, it’s a strain on the family, it’s a strain on the community … it’s a real problem in our NHS and our social care services. If some of this is preventable by prompt treatment and can keep someone’s independence, that makes a huge difference to people’s quality of life.’
RCOphth reported that our members are aware that review patients are not always being seen within a clinically safe time and cannot always be accommodated because of the lack of capacity in clinics.
New patient data are reported by Trusts to meet the 18-week referral to treatment target (RTT) by NHS England but review patients, whose appointments are postponed or cancelled, are not recognised because they are not a mandatory target for reporting.
Professor MacEwen, RCOphth President opened the reception revealing the extent of the pressure on hospital eye services, ‘Successful treatments and changing demographics have put huge pressure on hospital eye services with a 40% increase in out-patients in 10 years, seeing nearly 10 million of the 100million outpatient appointments in England alone; and undertaking five per cent of all surgery. All delivered by about 1500 consultant ophthalmologists and their teams.’
The lack of safeguards, such as an absence of routine reporting on delayed appointments for review patients, means that hospital eye services are unable to quantify the extent of the problem or the harm coming to this vulnerable group. By ensuring timely treatment for patients to help reduce preventable sight loss, a person’s ability to reach their full potential is increased and improves both mental and physical well-being, reducing the risk of falls and helping to maintain independent living.
People aged 65 and over are at high risk of developing blinding eye disease. Over the last decade, there has been nearly a 40% increase in eye clinic attendances across the UK and eye patients account for nearly 10% of the 100 million out-patient visits in 2014/15 in England.1
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) is aware of patients coming to harm from evidence available since 2003 when 25 patients lost vision due to review delays and subsequently in reports from the NPSA, NRLS, CQC and patient surveys. Further RCOphth research indicates this is on-going with approximately 20 patients per month permanently losing vision in the UK due to lack of timely care.2
- gov.uk/hes, www.isdscotland.org, www.wales.nhs.uk/statisticsanddata/sourcesofdata
- Surveillance of Sight Loss due to delay in ophthalmic review in the UK: Frequency, cause and outcome, Mr Barny Foot, Professor Caroline MacEwen – https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/standards-publications-research/audit-and-data/the-british-ophthalmological-surveillance-unit-bosu/abstract-surveillance-of-sight-loss-due-to-delay-in-ophthalmic-review-in-the-uk/