People at risk of losing sight due to fear of hospital during coronavirus pandemic

Post date: 
Wednesday, 3 June 2020
Eye health campaigning
Male patient has his eyes checked by an optometrist

We’re calling for people to continue attending scheduled eye appointments, after evidence shows that people are missing vital treatment due to fear of coronavirus.

Important appointments missed

Eye healthcare professionals across the UK have found that up to 50 per cent of people with urgent or acute eye conditions have not been attending appointments due to concern around coronavirus, according to the UK Ophthalmology Alliance. This includes people with eye conditions like retinal detachment or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), where patients require treatment to prevent permanent sight loss.

Risk of sight loss

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our Eye Health Team has also heard from people who have either missed appointments or not sought advice from their optometrist, despite their vision having deteriorated.

Unfortunately, some of the people who contacted us have experienced a rapid decline in their vision, but they hadn’t contacted their hospital, because they believed that only coronavirus patients were being seen.

Our Policy Manager for Eye Health, Helen Lee, said: 

It is extremely concerning to hear that people are not attending appointments or seeking advice for sudden changes in their vision. The treatments being missed have the ability to stabilise conditions and keep people from losing their sight unnecessarily.

Precautions to protect patients from coronavirus

We’re highlighting the provisions being put in place in hospitals, in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Some of the precautions include:

  • Reducing waiting times and having fewer people attending hospital at one time, in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Prioritising treatment for the most important cases, where a patient could be at risk of harm to their sight if they are not seen.
  • Reducing the amount of time patients and consultants spend together.

Speaking about these steps to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Helen Lee said:

The precautions put in place by NHS England are there to help patients and medical staff keep safe during the ongoing pandemic. We strongly advise people to attend their appointments or to discuss any concerns they have with hospital eye care staff. We are calling on the Government to include information about eye care in the NHS Open for Business communication campaign.

For more information on eye health, or if you are worried about your vision during coronavirus, we have information and advice to help

You can also call our helpline on 0303 123 9999, on Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 9am to 1pm.