Eye patients and waiting lists

 

Sir, – Further to “Eye patients at risk of irreversible sight loss because of delays, says charity” (April 4th), the Association of Optometrists Ireland is calling for the national eye-care plan to be published without further delay, and for it to increase the role of community-based care led by Optometrists.

Due to a growing and ageing population, the burden on the health system is continuously increasing and we need to adapt to a more responsive, accessible and sustainable way of delivering eye-care, while maintaining high clinical standards.

Eye-care has the largest waiting list of any medical treatment area.

This problem can be solved by enhancing the role of optometry to provide community based care for all routine examinations and some agreed basic treatments, freeing up hospital services to focus on specialist and complex cases.

Furthermore, eye-care patients, whose condition is stable, are currently retained in the hospital system for monitoring and review.

This system does not have – and is unlikely to ever have – the capacity to manage its ever-increasing caseload.

Stable patients should be reviewed and monitored by optometrists who are highly qualified to do so, and accessible locally with appointments available within days.

In eye-care there is currently no referral pathway between the community and specialised hospital care – and this needs to be established.

To address these issues all providers, including ophthalmologists, the HSE, optometrists and the Department of Health, need to deliver a system which has these care pathways, whereby patients can fluidly move between community and hospital care based upon their specific needs at each stage of their care journey.

In the UK, optometrists are employed both in community practices and in clinics and casualty services in hospitals. This frees up ophthalmologists to deal quickly with urgent and specialist cases.

The Association of Optometrists Ireland recently met Minister for Health Simon Harris and stressed these points to him.

These problems are serious and can be solved.

We need to publish the eye-care plan immediately, increase the role of community-based care, and all place our collective energy into its implementation. – Yours, etc,

SEÁN McCRAVE,

Chief Executive,

The Association

of Optometrists Ireland,

Greenmount House,

Harolds Cross Road,

Dublin 6W.