Dr Gwyn Williams is a Consultant Ophthalmologist working at Swansea Bay University Health Board and the Royal College of Ophthalmology’s Welsh Regional Educational Advisor. He tells RNIB Cymru what is happening with eye care appointments across Wales due to the changes in the face of COVID-19.
“Optometry and Ophthalmology have been closely collaborating, along with the Welsh Government, in order to reduce the risks for eye care patients.
The risks are twofold:
Coming to the hospital and potentially becoming infected with coronavirus or spreading the virus, and;
Permanent damage to eye health because they’ve not been to the hospital.
We’ve been working together to decide who is classified as an urgent patient that needs to come to hospital, and how we can make it safer for them.
Consultants are going through the notes of every patient who has an appointment due to decide who needs to come to the hospital and which appointments can be safely postponed. We have an army of nurses and secretaries calling every patient to let them know over the phone when their appointment is.
Patients will see a change compared to the usual jam-packed, eye clinic experience. The number of patients attending clinics is a lot lower than usual. Many appointments have been postponed until after this crisis is over.
Special arrangements have been made for the patients that still need to come in - for example, people with wet macular degeneration.
These include physical distancing between patients in the clinic, personal protective equipment for staff, the cleaning of the equipment and the fact that only the patient comes to the appointment in most cases. Relatives, friends and accompanying people are not allowed to come into the department unless the patient needs assistance.
Likewise, Optometric practices have been deciding who visits them, with routine glasses checks and updates being postponed until after this crisis has come to an end. Optometrists form a vital link in the eye casualty chain. Optometry practices are still open to deal with eye emergencies and link patients to hospitals when needed.
If someone develops a new concern about their eyes or vision, the eye casualty system and the eye emergency system is still functioning as before. Each hospital has an emergency eye clinic. Please do not be afraid to seek help if you need it.
People might be concerned about medication being in short supply but there is no need to unnecessarily worry at this point. It is very unlikely that supplies will run out.
This is an unprecedented time, but, as the well-used coffee cup slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" advises, we should do just that.”