Hopes are becoming a reality

Posted: Wednesday 04 May 2022
eye test clinic, woman looking at eye scans

NHS England’s national clinical director for eye care

As a member of ‘The Eyes Have It’ coalition, the Macular Society has been pushing for the recruitment of a National Clinical Director as part of a campaign to raise awareness of eye health care issues.

We are delighted to see progress on the appointment of this role, which, at the time of going to press, is in the applicant stage.

Why do we need this?

With over eight million outpatient appointments annually, ophthalmology is now the busiest specialty in the NHS. And eye conditions are costing the UK an estimated £25.5 billion a year.

Following the pandemic, a backlog of care has built up to the extent that one in ten patients on the waiting list in England are for ophthalmology. Providers are struggling to keep up with the rising demand.

With such a strong requirement, it’s clear that eye care provision across the nation needs to be brought together with some proper leadership. This role will take an overview to join up the services and level up availability across the country.

Our key hopes for the role

1. Development of a national strategy that to alleviate pressure on hospital eye services

    We need to make sure that the eye-care recovery and transformation programme gets on track and delivers. This is an opportunity for the NHS to rework services and to work closer together with optometrists and low-vision suppliers, to make the supply of care much more efficient.

    2. Guidance to enable direct referral from community optometry to secondary care

      The commissioning and supply of eye-care services needs to be redefined, so that, wherever you live in the UK, you will have equal access to quality services.

      Currently, primary eye care is outside the realm of the NHS, delivered by optometry professionals on the high street. There isn’t a joined-up referral process in many parts of the country. That means some people are referred into secondary care who don’t need to be and others are referred too late. It’s also more difficult in some areas of the country to access low-vision services.

      3. Future-proofing the workforce

        Did you know it takes a decade to turn out a consultant ophthalmologist? That’s why the future workforce needs serious consideration right now. Capacity, now and in the future, urgently needs to be addressed. With the number of diagnosis increasing, we know there is a tsunami of sight loss coming towards the NHS in the next 10 to 20 years.

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