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Latest HSIB report highlights ‘devastating’ impact of delays and pressure on national glaucoma services

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Delays to follow-up appointments for glaucoma patients leaves them at risk of sight loss, the Healthcare Investigation Safety Branch (HSIB) warns in their new report.

The report highlights the case of a 34-year old woman who lost her sight as a result of 13 months of delays to follow-up appointments.

Lack of timely follow-up for glaucoma patients is a recognised national issue across the NHS. Research suggests that around 22 patients a month will suffer severe or permanent sight loss as a result of the delays. In HSIB’s reference case, the patient saw seven different ophthalmologists and the time between her initial referral to hospital eye services (HES) and laser eye surgery was 11 months. By this time her sight had deteriorated so badly, she was registered as severely sight impaired.

The investigation identified that there is inadequate HES capacity to meet demand for glaucoma services, and that better, smarter ways of working should be implemented to maximise the current capacity. The report makes several safety recommendations focused on the management and prioritisation of appointments. 

Helen Lee, RNIB Policy and Campaigns Manager, said: “This report has brought vital attention to a serious and dangerous lack of specialist staff and space in NHS ophthalmology services across the country. We know that thousands of patients in England are experiencing delays in time-critical eye care appointments, which is leading to irreversible sight loss for some."

“Without immediate action, the situation will only continue to deteriorate as the demand for appointments increases. RNIB urges full and immediate implementation of the recommendations set out in this report to improve the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of ophthalmology services.”

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Source: HSIB, 9 January 2020

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