With an unprecedented and growing demand for hospital eyecare, UK eye health experts have called for urgent action to reduce hospital delays and improve patient safety.
The UK’s Association of Optometrists (AOP), College of Optometrists and Royal College of Ophthalmologists have joined forces to tackle the increasing pressure on hospital eye departments. The action follows recent findings by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch and Getting It Right First Time, highlighting serious inadequacies in eye healthcare with as many as 22 patients per month suffering severe or permanent sight loss due to delays in follow-up appointments and hospital treatment.
Dr Peter Hampson, AOP’s clinical director said things are simply not working under the current system. “We’re regularly hearing stories of patients that are suffering as they live with unnecessary sight loss. National recommendations were made on the referrals process for conditions like glaucoma over a decade ago and yet people continue to experience the same systemic failings. We believe it’s time to see a change. Making full use of the skills of other professionals, such as optometrists, could release time for ophthalmologists to manage cases where the patient has more complex needs.”
“There is an enormous amount optometrists and ophthalmologists can do to reduce care delays for patients with eye conditions if we work together,” said Dr Melanie Hingorani, UK Ophthalmology Alliance chair. “We need NHS England to enable greater collaboration by urgently addressing the many barriers in the current system limiting this.”
In a joint statement, the parties have outlined immediate steps to improve patient eyecare referrals, including guidelines for commissioners, hospital eye departments, individual ophthalmologists and optometrists to better integrate services and pool existing resources.