'Overstretched' Eye Clinics At 'Breaking Point'

New Research Released By The RNIB Has Shown Eye Clinics Are At 'Breaking Point'

14.11.2013

Eye clinics across England are at breaking point, according to new research released by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

A report released by the foundation has discovered that over 80 per cent of eye departments in hospitals around England have insufficient capacity to meet their current levels of demand, while 94 per cent report that their future resourcing will not allow them to treat people effectively.

Of the staff surveyed by the RNIB, 37 per cent reported that patients are losing their sight unnecessarily because of delayed treatment or follow-up care, something the government will have to address quickly before the issue spirals out of control.

Further to this, four per cent of personnel participating in the RNIB research said that loss of sight is happening "often" because of a lack of resourcing.

RNIB chief executive, Lesley-Anne Alexander, commented on the statistics by arguing hospital managers are ignoring an ongoing capacity crisis, mainly to save money.

"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," she added.

"RNIB believes these shocking results should act as a wake-up call to commissioners and to hospitals. They should be aware that if they do not act soon, they could be at risk of clinical negligence claims."

To counter these issues, the RNIB is calling for NHS England to launch an urgent inquiry into the quality of care across ophthalmology departments in the nation.

Ms Alexander also said the NHS must establish a national clinical director position in for eye care to improve the "unacceptable" levels of variation in eye care provision that currently exists in England.

But with budget cuts hitting certain parts of the NHS in England and ongoing issues with A&E units currently taking centre stage in the media, it seems unlikely this will be a priority for the government.



Expert Opinion
The findings by the RNIB’s report are shocking, for such a high percentage of eye departments across the UK to be failing to meet levels of demand and in some cases failing to treat patients effectively is unacceptable.

“It is essential that an inquiry is launched to identify the regions within the NHS where there are failings in patient care and that an action plan is put into place to ensure that staff are trained to meet industry guidelines and also that staffing numbers meet the level of demand.

“There is no reason why patients who are suffering from treatable conditions should lose their sight unnecessarily.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner