Royal College of Ophthalmologists warns of eye risk from ‘overstretched NHS’


Eye specialists have warned that hundreds of patients suffer irreversible sight loss every year in England because services are overstretched and under-resourced. 

The president of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Prof Carrie MacEwen, has warned the NHS is struggling to keep up with the increased demand.

Due to our ageing population Prof MacEwen argues the demand on ophthalmology, like all areas of healthcare, is increasing like never before.

Hospital attendances have increased year on year in the UK, with over 100 million outpatient appointments made in England alone during 2013-14, of which 10% are for eye care.

Writing for the BBC’s Scrubbing Up, she said: "Common eye conditions which were previously untreatable, such as age-related macular degeneration, can now be treated successfully, but this adds to the demand on eye clinics."

She said the current treatment targets fail to reflect the critical importance of follow-up appointments, which may be delayed for months or even years.

You can read the full statement from Prof MacEwen here. 

Commenting on the story, our chief executive Cathy Yelf, said: “Delays in eye clinics cause sight loss. We know many patients have lost vision because not enough resource has been put into wet AMD services and some hospitals have been very slow to adopt new working practices such as using nurses to give injections. (There are not enough doctors to deliver the service.)

“Patients get very frightened when their appointments are delayed because they know the consequences. We understand that the NHS is under great pressure but some clinics appear to manage better than others. It is a tragedy that people lose sight when there is a treatment that will help keep their vision for longer but it is not given in time.”