Fighting Blindness Calls for Urgent Publication and Implementation of Primary Care Eye Services Report

We took the opportunity at our recent Retina Conference to highlight some important issues in our community; the need for investment in our eye care services, particularly to address ophthalmology waiting lists. Figures from the end of October once again show that ophthalmology has some of the longest waiting lists in the country.

  • Ophthalmology had the highest waiting list for hospital in-patient and day case treatment at 13,237 patients, with more than one in four waiting for more than a year.
  • Ophthalmology had the fifth highest list for out-patient treatment at 31,868, with one in five waiting more than a year.

Fighting Blindness issued a press release calling on the Government to urgently publish the Review of Primary Care Eye Services and commit to fully fund and implement the recommendations of the report, which is in the final stages of development. The plan would see greater emphasis on eye care services being delivered in the community for stable chronic conditions and thus free up valuable hospital resources and time for more critical acute cases.

It’s estimated that vision loss currently affects more than 246,000 people in Ireland, and this is projected to rise to 272,000 by 2020.

Review of Eye Care Services Key to Improving Outcomes

Current ophthalmology waiting list numbers are extremely concerning. They mean that a sight issue will continue to interfere with a person’s quality of life for so much longer than is necessary. More particularly, for people with rare degenerative eye conditions, it means that they are not being monitored regularly and so we are not able to learn more about these complex conditions and how they will affect people long-term.

We are aware of the huge body of work that has gone into developing the National Clinical Programme for Ophthalmology. Fighting Blindness wants the review to focus on reconfiguring how we deliver ophthalmology services, with primary care delivering more ophthalmic services in the community, leaving hospitals free for more complex clinical procedures. We welcome the fact that the National Treatment Purchase Fund is working to reduce the numbers waiting for treatment, however, if we are to address the structural causes behind these figures then, in addition to this, a new way of delivering care is urgently required. With the projected ten per cent increase in people living with vision loss between now and 2020, particularly arising from conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, we cannot get started soon enough – the time for action is now.

We eagerly await the publication of the Review of Primary Care Eye Services and will keep you informed of developments in this area. If you would like any further information please contact us on 01 6789 004 or communications@fightingblindness.ie.