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Turning a blind eye to delays?

Urgent action is needed to transform ophthalmic services to prevent devastating and avoidable sight loss for patients. Lack of timely follow-up for glaucoma patients is a recognised issue across the NHS and research suggests that around 22 patients a month suffer severe or permanent sight loss as a result of delays.

A study by the British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit (BOSU) previously highlighted glaucoma as being the most common reason for loss of vision.1 In fact, glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that result in damage to the main nerve in the eye (the optic nerve) and loss of visual field. It is usually, but not always, associated with an increase in the pressure of the fluid inside the eye (intraocular pressure) to above the normal range. In the UK, around 2% of the population over 40 have the condition.2 

Although any vision which has been lost due to glaucoma cannot be recovered, with early diagnosis, careful monitoring and regular use of treatments, further damage to vision can be prevented and most patients retain useful sight for life.2 However, according to a new report by the national safety body, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, delays to followup appointments for glaucoma are leaving patients at risk of sight loss. The report highlights the case of a 34-year old woman who lost her sight as a result of 13 months of delays to follow-up appointments.3 

Lack of timely follow-up for glaucoma patients is a recognised national issue across the NHS. Research suggests that around 22 patients a month will suffer severe or permanent sight loss as a result of the delays.1 In the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch’s reference case, the patient saw seven different ophthalmologists and the time between her initial referral to hospital eye services (HES) and laser eye  surgery was 11 months. By this time, her sight had deteriorated so badly, she was registered as severely sight impaired

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Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

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