Delays due to the COVID-19 crisis have created tens of thousands of year-long waiters for ophthalmology treatment, and a surgery backlog which experts say may never be recovered.
NHS England provisional data shows the number of people waiting 52 weeks or longer for ophthalmology treatment increased to more than 23,000 in December, up 57,580% on just 40 the year before.
Experts say ophthalmology procedures have been hit particularly hard by the cancellation of elective work due to COVID-19 pressures. On average, roughly 130,000 ophthalmology patients completed treatment per month in England in 2019, most of which would likely have been cataract surgeries.
Royal College of Ophthalmologists professional standards chair Melanie Hingorani told HSJ that many in the discipline feared “traditional” ways of working were too “fragmented” to address the size of the challenge. She said that without a “much more innovative” approach it would be “really difficult” to deal with the surgery backlog on ophthalmology and that clearing it could take “two years, maybe longer”.
There remained a danger, however, she added that: “Maybe we never catch up”.
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Source: HSJ, 1 March 2021