31st March 2021, NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) are calling on the Government to act on reducing waiting lists for ophthalmology appointments. Outpatient waiting list figures have averaged at 42,000 people annually since 2018 and worryingly 16,727 people are now waiting longer than 18 months up from 8,168 in 2018.
June Tinsley, NCBI Head of Advocacy and Communications said: “The number of patients seeking ophthalmology appointments has risen steadily over three years and this is not a consequence of appointments being cancelled due to Covid19. The longer the delay in diagnosis, assessment and treatment the worse the condition becomes leading to unnecessary blindness in some cases. This in turn delays the referrals to NCBI who can offer holistic support to enable the patient to adjust to sight loss.”
Tackling waiting lists can be done a few ways, firstly the recruitment of more Consultant Ophthalmologists because according to the Irish Medical Organisation (2019) the recommended number of consultants posts in ophthalmology is 147, but presently there is only 41. Secondly, expand the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) service to all acute hospitals nationwide. This service which is run by the NCBI is currently operational in Dublin and is about responding to patients needs at a point of diagnosis. The service bridges the gap between clinician interventions and offering information, support and referral to patients in a holistic way.
Ms Tinsley added “Our ECLO service has already proven to be effective in offering timely interventions and support and our evaluation showed 83% of clinicians agreed the ECLO enhanced the efficient running of the clinic. The HSE could expand this service to fund 7 posts nationally, supporting an additional 11,760 patients and their families per year. This investment now would reap dividends for both the patient and the HSE services in the long run.”