Sight loss charity say people in West Lothian waiting too long for eye treatment

By Debbie Hall

A leading sight loss charity says people in West Lothian are waiting too long for treatment for eye conditions.

Sight Loss Scotland and Sight Loss Veterans say people in the NHS Lothian health board area waiting longer than weeks due to the impact of the pandemic.

The charity, which has a Sight Loss Veterans rehabilitation centre at Wilkieston, says although progress has been made since the height of the pandemic, official figures show thousands of patients with eye conditions are facing waits longer than the 12 week waiting times guarantee.

The most recent figures for ophthalmology show that for patients still waiting for outpatient appointments, 6858 had been waiting more than 12 weeks in March in NHS Lothian, the highest number since the pandemic began.

For patients still waiting for inpatient and day case treatment there were 101 patients in NHS Lothian waiting more than 12 weeks in March.

Mark O’Donnell, chief executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans said: “The pandemic has brought incredible pressures on our health services and our amazing NHS staff, including those who work in eye clinics.

“We welcome the fact that there has been significant progress in tackling inpatient waiting times since the height of the pandemic, but there are still thousands of patients waiting too long for treatment.

“We are particularly concerned that for people waiting for outpatient appointments for eye conditions there were still 26,000 patients across Scotland who had waited more than 12 weeks, including 6858 in NHS Lothian, with this figure the highest since the onset of the pandemic.

“For many eye conditions it is essential they are treated quickly to secure the best outcome for the patient. This is an anxious time for thousands of patients who have been waiting months for treatment. It is vital that the Scottish Government delivers an action plan to reduce waiting times for ophthalmology which ensures eye departments have the resources and specialist staff they need.”

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer, Acute Services, NHS Lothian said, like elsewhere in Scotland tt the height of the pandemic, ophthalmology services were greatly reduced to cover emergency patients and those triaged as clinically urgent only.

She continued: “While wider service provision has resumed, the knock-on effects of the early stages of the pandemic alongside the ongoing requirement to adhere to physical distancing, as well as other enhanced infection prevention and control measures continue to impact waiting times for some of our ophthalmology patients.

“We apologise to those patients who have been impacted as a result, but would like to offer our assurance that we are doing everything we can to remobilise the service as quickly as possible.

“This includes running additional outpatient clinics and increasing our workforce. Through these measures, we would hope to reduce the wait for patients to be assessed and treated.”

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