NHS patients are going blind from avoidable conditions because eye clinics are not treating them on time, a charity has warned.
In a survey of staff at clinics across England, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) found that more than a third said patients were “sometimes” losing their sight needlessly because of delays to treatment and follow-up care caused by capacity problems.
More than 80 per cent of the 172 ophthalmologists and ophthalmological nurses who responded to the survey said that their clinic did not have sufficient capacity to meet demand.
Increased pressure was blamed on the ageing population, and the increased availability of new treatments.
“These statistics are shameful as nobody should lose their sight from a treatable condition simply because their eye clinic is too busy to provide care in a clinically appropriate timescale,” said RNIB's Chief Executive, Lesley-Anne Alexander. “Hospital managers are ignoring the capacity crisis, often to save money, and are putting patients' sight at risk and their staff on course for burnout.”
The charity has called for the health service to conduct an urgent inquiry into the quality of eye care services and recommended that NHS England create a post for a national clinical director for eye care provision to oversee services.
An NHS England spokesperson said: “It is important that people have ready access to treatment they need. To ensure this happens Clinical Commissioning Groups will be working with other organisations in their area to ensure the needs of their patients are met.”