New report says eye health system is failing patients

Posted: Tuesday 05 June 2018

The Macular Society has welcomed a new report, published today, which says the current eye health system is failing patients on a grand scale.

According to the report, published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Eye Health and Visual Impairment, up to 22 people per month are permanently losing sight due to delayed and cancelled hospital appointments for conditions such as wet AMD, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease. 

Macular Society member and campaigner Malcolm Johnson was part of the Expert Advisory Group for the APPG.

Malcolm, from Shropshire, was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. He was told his sight could deteriorate in a matter of weeks and rapid treatment was critical. However, as his local eye department, like so many in the country, was understaffed and overworked it couldn't give him a date for the ‘urgent’ appointment.

The APPG’s report says the situation is fixable if the NHS prioritises eye health and action is taken immediately. 

Malcolm has been at the forefront of campaigning for better eye health services since his diagnosis. He said he hoped the report would be actioned to improve treatment for everyone.

“When I was diagnosed with wet AMD in 2016, I faced lengthy delays for vital treatment,” he said.

“Both my sight and my livelihood were put at risk, which was frankly terrifying. I have since become an active campaigner for major improvements in NHS England for timely eye health care. I know from this work that patients across the country are continuing to unnecessarily lose their vision and sight. It has been my privilege to have served on the Expert Advisory Panel that has been an integral part of the Inquiry.

“I hope this report will be acted upon positively by Government and politicians in order to stop people from losing their sight and the consequent effect that this has on them personally and on the economy.”

The report follows an inquiry into capacity issues in eye care, and the findings are being launched at a Parliamentary reception for MPs today.

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “It is a tragedy that people lose sight when there is a treatment that will help keep their vision for longer, but it is not given in time. The impact of losing your sight is huge, not only on the individual but also on their family. It is so important that the recommendations in the report are implemented in order to ensure people are getting the eye care they need.”

The Society also highlighted the need for more investment in research to help alleviate the burden on the NHS in the longer term.

Cathy added: “AMD is almost as prevalent as dementia and represents a huge cost, care and societal burden, yet we know it does not receive a level of research funding proportionate to its impact.

“It is an urgent public health issue. Unless strong action is taken to fund research for better treatments, and ultimately a cure for AMD, we will be facing an epidemic in the decades to come.”

The report is calling on the Secretary of State for Health, NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, local authorities, commissioners, delivery bodies, NHS providers and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) to act now on eye health.