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RCOphth President reacts to the general election

18 December 2019

Responding to the outcome of the recent general election, RCOphth President Mike Burdon said 

“The NHS and its workforce have been a key issue in this election, with the governments mandate secured by promising to invest in the workforce and address capacity issues in hospitals, the college will hold the government to account on their promises on behalf of its members. 

“Ophthalmology is the busiest outpatient specialty, with a predicted demand of over 40% in the next 20 years, a new government must put ophthalmologists at the forefront of its health agenda if it wishes to tackle the strains on our National Health Service. 

“With the public demanding action on addressing staffing shortages, the government must take urgent action, a quarter of eye doctors are nearing retirement and 434 extra consultant posts are needed to meet demand. In order to meet demand, the college is also calling on NHS England to increase the number of trainee places for ophthalmologists to address critical shortages in the profession. 

Ophthalmology is one of the most effective and innovative specialties in the NHS. We are continually developing solutions, such as virtual clinics and the use of AI in diagnostics to overcome the increasing patient demand.  But we need support and investment to help us do more to save the sight of our patients. This helps them to live independently for longer and prevent the associated negative effects of sight loss such as depression and falls. 

“Innovation in ophthalmology also continues to save the NHS money and deliver effective results. The National Ophthalmology Database is at the cutting edge of big data and has played a key role in transforming patient care as well as delivering cost savings of £2million annually. With proper investment, NOD and its use of electronic patient records can be rolled out for age related macular degeneration, which would help meet increasing demand due to an ageing population. 

“As well as addressing workforce shortages, the government must also tackle NHS IT systems that continue to have a negative impact on workforce satisfaction and patient outcomes, a joined up approach is desperately needed, with modern networked systems across community, primary and secondary care to meet demand and reduce unnecessary outpatient appointments.

2020 will see the College campaign on a year of the importance of vision, we will be engaging with members at every opportunity to celebrate the profession and engage with government to ensure ophthalmology is at the forefront of the health agenda”.