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People may risk losing sight due to fear of catching coronavirus in hospital

Up to 50 per cent of people with acute or urgent eye conditions may not have been attending scheduled eye-healthcare appointments because of concerns over coronavirus.

RNIB Scotland is urging people to continue treatment which, in some cases, may be vital to preventing permanent sight loss.

According to the UK Ophthalmology Alliance, ophthalmic professionals across the UK have found that up to 30 to 50 per cent of people with acute or urgent eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of sight loss, have missed appointments during the peak of lockdown.

James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, said: "It is very concerning if people are not attending appointments or seeking advice for any sudden changes in their vision. Some treatments being missed can stabilise conditions and keep people from losing their sight unnecessarily.

“The precautions currently put in place by NHS Scotland 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.”

RNIB Scotland is highlighting the provisions in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Some of the precautions include having fewer people attending at one time in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, reducing the number of time patients and consultants spend together and reducing waiting times.

Andrew Ferguson, chair of Eye Health Scotland and a consultant ophthalmologist in NHS Forth Valley, said: “Hospital Eye Services in Scotland are re-starting clinical work, albeit in a limited way due to distancing and safety requirements in order to keep the risk of Covid transmission at very low levels."

"Where possible we are using alternative methods of communicating remotely, but in many cases, a face-to-face visit to the eye clinic remains essential to avoid sight loss; and in that regard I would empathise the importance of attending if a hospital appointment is offered."

“However, I want to reassure patients that eye units are taking every possible precaution and the risk of catching Covid-19 in a hospital eye clinic is extremely low.”

For more information on what to do if you have concerns about your sight during the coronavirus pandemic, call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit our eye health page.