Wales’ largest sight loss charity RNIB Cymru has warned that people continue to be at risk of losing their sight unnecessarily because need is still not prioritised over waiting time targets.
One year ago RNIB Cymru research found that at least four people a month are losing their sight in Wales because of delayed and cancelled appointments.
One year on the warning echoes RNIB’s report “Real patients coming to real harm” which found that the appointments system in the Welsh NHS is unable to cope with the demand.
An ageing population, new treatments and an increase in some underlying causes of sight loss, such as diabetes and obesity, have caused an increase in demand for ophthalmology services. Referral to Treatment Time (“RTT”) targets means that priority is given to the first appointment. As a result patients who need follow up appointments and treatments often have to wait much longer than they should. In that time they can lose their sight irreversibly.
Ceri Jackson, Director of RNIB Cymru, said: “In March this year, the First Minister said that if anybody had lost their sight due to waiting times, it was “unacceptable”.
“It is clear that the new Planned Care Board is driving change but I remain gravely concerned that not enough progress has been made. Patients continue to tell us how concerned they are about losing their sight because of their appointments being delayed or cancelled.
“The fact is that people are still losing their sight unnecessarily. All too often at RNIB we hear from patients navigating the system and feeling the impact of delays to their treatment.
“The number of cancelled and delayed appointments is far too high and we have no way of knowing just how many people have had those cancellations – and remain at risk either.
“Patients need to be informed of the risks to their sight if their appointments are delayed or cancelled – and often that is just not happening.”