During these unprecedented times, it is understandable that many people are worried about stepping foot inside a hospital.
But the world is still turning during the coronavirus crisis. Ongoing health conditions have not disappeared. Accidents still happen, and emergencies still need to be dealt with as fast as possible.
Many routine appointments have been postponed until it is safe to resume normal service. We know that these delays will be incredibly concerning, and while we support local eye services’ efforts in making decisions at this difficult time, it is vital that sight-saving treatments go ahead.
So in many situations, a visit to the hospital eye clinic is still essential. People with certain ongoing eye health conditions such as wet macular degeneration should continue to attend appointments, and eye emergencies like sudden retinal detachment must be dealt with as soon as possible. These are time-sensitive conditions that require urgent attention to ensure that the risk of permanent sight loss is minimised.
We know that people across Wales will be feeling anxious about visiting any healthcare setting. Many are worried about their risk of infection, or whether their condition is serious enough to warrant treatment at this time. Others are concerned that they will be an unnecessary burden on the NHS.
But people should not have to risk losing their sight unnecessarily during the coronavirus crisis.
We want to reassure people across Wales that every precaution is being taken in eye clinics to minimise any risk of virus transmission. Special measures have been taken to ensure physical distancing between patients. Friends, family and carers are now no longer permitted into the department unless it is absolutely necessary.
Patient numbers are lower and everyone waiting is very spaced out. Staff are all equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and equipment is meticulously cleaned.
Consultants have been working hard to identify which individual patients need ongoing treatment and which appointments can be postponed.
If your appointment has not been cancelled, it has been judged as necessary and you should continue to attend. If you are worried about your visit, you can call your consultant’s secretary to discuss your situation and any personal concerns you may have in detail. There are no silly questions. If in doubt, just ask.
It is also important to remember that eye casualty services are running as normal. If you develop a new concern about your eyes or vision, such as sudden pain, redness, flashing lights or an increase in eye floaters, contact an emergency optometrist in your area or visit the eye emergency clinic at your local hospital. In many cases, rapid action can save your sight.
We are adapting in the face of a national emergency. This crisis will end, but in the meantime we are working hard as a sector to keep people safe and reduce their risk of permanent sight loss.
Across Wales optometric practices are open for urgent and essential eye care to continue to support the NHS during this difficult period. If you have any concerns about your appointments or sudden changes to your vision, then these should be your first point of contact. A full list of open practices are available on the eye care Wales website http://www.eyecare.wales.nhs.uk/home.
For anything else, from emotional support to financial advice, please contact the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or [email protected]. Our advisers can offer helpful resources, information and tips to make life a little easier during this difficult period.