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The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) are calling on the Government to act on reducing waiting lists for ophthalmology appointments. Outpatient waiting list figures have averaged at 42,000 people annually since 2018 and 16,727 people are now waiting longer than 18 months, up from 8,168 in 2018.
Ms June Tinsley, NCBI Head of Advocacy and Communications, said: “The number of patients seeking ophthalmology appointments has risen steadily over three years and this is not a consequence of appointments being cancelled due to Covid-19. The longer the delay in diagnosis, assessment and treatment, the worse the condition becomes leading to unnecessary blindness in some cases. This in turn delays the referrals to NCBI who can offer holistic support to enable the patient to adjust to sight loss.”
According to the NCBI, reducing waiting lists can be addressed in various ways – firstly by the recruitment of more consultant ophthalmologists. The IMO has stated that the recommended number of consultant posts in ophthalmology is 147, but presently there are only 41.
Secondly, the NCBI advised the expansion of the eye clinic liaison officer (ECLO) service to all acute hospitals nationwide. This service, which is run by the NCBI, is currently operational in Dublin and involves responding to patients needs at a point of diagnosis. The service bridges the gap between clinician interventions and offering information, support and referral to patients in a holistic way.
Ms Tinsley commented: “Our ECLO service has already proven to be effective in offering timely interventions and support and our evaluation showed 83 per cent of clinicians agreed the ECLO enhanced the efficient running of the clinic. The HSE could expand this service to fund seven posts nationally, supporting an additional 11,760 patients and their families per year. This investment now would reap dividends for both the patient and the HSE services in the long run.”