Irish News: Outpatient eye-care waiting list remains unacceptable at 41,600

Irish News: Outpatient eye-care waiting list remains unacceptable at 41,600

Optometrists call for cataracts scheme roll-out, children’s eye-care programme, prescribing rights and payments parity

41,600 people were on the outpatient eye-care waiting list at the end of December 2018, with the list increasing from 39,900 at the end of 2017.

16,200 of these people were waiting more than a year and 10,500 more than 18 months. This is also up from 13,800 waiting more than a year and almost 7,600 more than 18 months at the end of 2017.

Association of Optometrists (AOI) Chief Executive Sean McCrave said Ireland’s eye-care services need to be reformed to meet ever-growing demand, as the population both increases and ages.

Furthermore, 9,300 people were awaiting inpatient eye procedures at the end of December – the third largest inpatient list of any medical speciality. There have however been decreases in the inpatient list over the past 12 months.

“While there was a welcome reduction in the inpatients list, and the rate of increase in the outpatient list is slowing, the mismatch between demand and availability remains enormous.

“AOI welcomes the additional theatre space at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear and Nenagh Hospitals during 2018, but these will not address this scale of demand and delays. We have a growing aged population year on year.

“Optometrists are recommending radical reform of eye-care to move towards a triaged approach of routine public care provided by Optometrists in the community and specialised care by Ophthalmologists in hospitals. In Ireland we have an unusual overreliance on hospital Ophthalmology Departments. This is a flawed approach that cannot and will not meet patient demand,” AOI stated.

AOI’s new President Patricia Dunphy highlighted the need for better organisation of cataracts surgery which accounts for a significant portion of the waiting lists backlog.

“A survey carried out by AOI in 2018 found that there are waiting times of up to five years in some parts of the country for cataract surgery. AOI is calling for national roll-out of the Sligo Post-Cataract Scheme, which has reduced waiting times and costs in the region where it is available.

“Rolling out this protocol nationally would reduce outpatient cataract appointments by up to 20,000. This alone would make a significant impact,” she said.

Optometrists call for dedicated national children’s eye-care programme

AOI called for the development of an Optometrist led national eye-care programme for 0-16 years olds to address major waiting times, gaps and inconsistencies in children’s services across the country.

Greater Prescribing rights

AOI also called for Optometrists be granted prescribing rights for antibiotic and steroid drops which it said members are already qualified to do. Ms Dunphy said this would not require any additional training, just an amendment to the Medicines Act.

She added that there are also many other prescription treatments for eye disease (such as Glaucoma) which, with additional training, Optometrists could provide. This would bring the profession here into line with the UK, with many Irish Optometrists having already completed this training after working in the UK.

“Appropriate prescribing by Optometrists would relieve some pressure on GPs and also simplify care for the patient who could be managed more comprehensively by their Optometrist,” she said.

Topic: Optical News