Elderly receive poor service from NHS eye clinics according to new report

Elderly people with eye disease are receiving a poor level of service from the NHS, according to a new survey which questioned hospital ophthalmologists. 

Findings of the survey, which was commissioned by the Macular Society and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, reported that while 11.9% of respondents believe the service they offered was ‘poor,’ a further 1.4% classified their service as ‘very poor.’ 
 
While the survey defined a ‘poor’ level of service as ‘a significant number of patients not receiving the appropriate/optimum level of care,’ a ‘very poor’ level of service was categorised as patients losing more sight than necessary. 
 
Furthermore, over two-thirds of respondents (69.4%) identified shortages in medical care and support staff as the cause of the problems facing the eye clinic within which they work. Almost half surveyed (46.9%) said that hospital trust managers failed to treat eye clinics as a priority.
 
The survey questioned specialists about the care of patients with retinal conditions such as wet AMD
 
Chief executive of the Macular Society, Helen Jackman, said: “It is a tragedy that we now have a treatment for wet AMD and similar conditions but waiting times in clinics are getting so long that people’s sight is at risk. 
 
“More and more people are developing wet AMD as we live longer and most will need treatment for life. The NHS needs urgently to address the crisis in eye clinics or people will lose their sight.”
 
Questioning clinicians on how the problems could be addressed, 82% said that clinic capacity could be improved by using optometrists to monitor patients between injections. Additionally, 70% agreed with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ recommendation that suitably trained people, who are not doctors, could administer injections. 
 
Commenting on the findings, president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Professor Harminder Dua, said: “These results are worrying and cause for concern but there is another perspective. It was not that long ago when there was no treatment for wet AMD. Drug treatment of AMD is now available, approved by NICE and provided by the NHS, saving sight and bringing hope to many. 
 
“There are just far too many needing this treatment putting immense pressure on the limited existing capacity. Innovative and concerted efforts by the Department of Health, Hospital Trusts and ophthalmologists, of the kind suggested can help ease the pressure but a long-term strategy for a sustained increase in capacity is immediately required.”
 
These latest findings report similar results to an earlier survey performed by the Macular Society in 2012, suggesting that the NHS is failing to respond to concern, the charity said. Together the organisations have pledged to continue to call on the new NHS clinical commissioning groups to priorities the treatment of retinal disease to prevent elderly people losing their sight. 
 
 
 
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