Holyrood Eye Health Day helps to highlight ophthalmology challenges in Scotland

  • 14 Jun 2022
  • Jordon Marshall, Policy Manager

Earlier this month, the first-ever Holyrood Eye Health Day was held in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. This was a great opportunity to highlight the challenges facing ophthalmology services in Scotland to Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and the Scottish Government.

It was organised as part of the Eyes Have It group, which the College is part of alongside the Association of Optometrists, Macular Society, Fight for Sight and Roche. Sight Scotland also supported the event. A number of clinical leads based in Scottish eye care units were able to attend too and share their insight into the challenges facing services.

Stuart McMillan MSP, Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Visual Impairment, spoke about the need to improve eye care services post-pandemic in the context of long backlogs. Ophthalmology services in Scotland are under serious pressure, with almost two-thirds (62%) of patients now waiting longer than 12 weeks for an outpatient assessment, compared to 27% before the pandemic.

This will need investment in services like cataract hubs and ophthalmology diagnostic centres to help address this backlog. We were pleased that the Daily Record newspaper published an article in print on the day of the event see here, which highlighted prominently the damaging impact of long ophthalmology waiting lists.

As part of the Eyes Have It group, we will use the momentum from this event to encourage engaged MSPs to ask parliamentary questions on relevant issues.

Optimising cataract pathways in Scotland

Separately, we are also continuing to work with the Scottish Government to support work to improve cataract pathways. The Scottish Government has plans to increase the number of cataracts performed per four-hour session – at present, there is a significant variation with a mean of 5.4.

College representatives have met with those leading this work, including Dr Catherine Calderwood, National Clinical Director for the Centre for Sustainable Delivery. We welcome the intention of this project and have shared our insights on how NHS Scotland can best go about this, including what we learned from a similar project that took place under the GIRFT programme in England.

Points that we have highlighted include the need to optimise the pre-hospital optometry pathway and for every eye unit to have a cataract lead. We will keep members updated with the development of this work in the coming months.