Almost 12,500 people are on waiting lists for eye procedures

Optometrists say treatment delays arecompromising health of patients

 

There are almost 12,500 people waiting for eye procedures, new figures show.

The Association of Optometrists (AOI) said “crisis-level delays” in eye-care were compromising health and that services needed to change urgently to meet present and future demand.

It said at the end of August the-inpatient waiting list for eye procedures -- at almost 12,500 -- was the largest of any medical speciality.

The association said that more than 3,000 people on waiting list had been queuing for treatment for more than one year with 800 waiting more than 18 months.

It said a further 38,000 people were on out-patient waiting lists, which had increased by almost 20 per cent over the last eight months .

The Association of Optometrists called for immediate reforms which would see community and hospital-based services work much more closely together, with routine care provided in the community and only specialist or complex cases referred to hospital eye departments.

AOI Chief Executive Sean McCrave said: “Hospital eye departments cannot and will not meet patient ever-growing demand. In the UK and across Europe there has been an increasing move towards community based eye-care - and that is where Ireland needs to go to.”

The association also said that money could also be saved through a reformed system.

“We estimate that €32million can be saved while at the same time delivering a better and quicker service. This is because it is 50 percent less expensive to treat via the local optometrist than in the hospital system.”

Mr McCrave said that the HSE could solve the problem quickly by reviewing optometrists’ contracts and sanctioning them to provide an increased volume of routine public services.

“We have 600 optometrists across the country who are trained, highly-skilled, have the necessary equipment and want to solve the crisis. AOI is calling for discussions with the HSE to begin immediately,” he said.

The association estimated that the areas in which savings could be made included: that annual savings can be made of €32.3m including: children’s eye-care €7.2million, glaucoma €19.3million, triage 3.9million and red eye €1.9million.

“An optometrist examination costs an average of €45, while an outpatient department or community clinic appointment is estimated to cost double this and also involves high levels of non-attendances, plus patient costs (travel and parking).”