Nearly 600,000 people were waiting for ophthalmology treatments in January 2022, the largest waiting list of all NHS specialities, and around 10 per cent of all those on the referral-to-treatment pathway.
President, Bernie Chang joined a Health Service Journal panel from across the eye care sector, including John Bhargava (Co-Clinical Lead, GIRFT), Rob Cooper (RNIB), Alison Davis (Co-Clinical Lead, GIRFT) and Conn O’Neil (Roche) to explore what the NHS can do to ensure that the backlog of patients waiting for ophthalmic treatments is reduced and that a sustainable service is established for the future.
More progress on reducing this backlog is needed if patients are to avoid sight loss and impaired vision, which can have a profound impact on their daily life and leave them more dependent on others. Speakers explored the available guidance and good practice made possible by the impact of COVID which accelerated the ‘new normal’ ways of working.
Key areas of work mentioned by the representatives of RCOphth, GIRFT and RNIB were:
- RCOphth’s policy and continuing work on developing the non-medical multi-professional eye care workforce through the Ophthalmic Practitioner Training (OPT) Programme to free up capacity for ophthalmologists to take on more complex and high-risk patients
- Communication with the patient and between colleagues is important
- Using new practices developed to meet COVID restrictions is changing the way we treat patients – simple things like sending eye drops to dilate pupils to their home reduce the time spent in hospitals
- Ensuring that social care is joined up and where patients with sight loss need support, get that support in a timely way
- Making sure that patients are involved in decision-making and recommendations to improve the patient experience and pathways
- Tackling unwanted variation and prioritising risk for patients with irreversible sight loss and reversible sight loss
Professor Chang, said, ‘It was a pleasure to join the webinar panel to discuss these important issues for the ophthalmic community. With demand for eye care services increasing by 40% over the next 20 years, it is vital that we continue to look at innovative ways to reduce backlogs that were present even before the pandemic. All those involved in eye services want the same thing – to provide the best care in a timely way for patients and reduce any possibility of irreversible sight loss. We agreed that communications and sharing best practices, making the most efficient use of the multi-disciplinary team and integration between primary and secondary care services to transform patient care is vital’.
The webinar, supported by Roche, is part of the HSJ Elective Care Recovery Virtual Series. You will need to register for the webinar on HSJ site.
You can read the College position on workforce issues at
Find out about the RCOphth’s Ophthalmic Practitioner Training Programme
RCOphth briefing on target to cut outpatient follow-ups
National Elective Recovery Plan
Specification and guidance to support cataract contracting
More resources for eye care professionals:
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists