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 this Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) report, the reference case 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 HSIB 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 highlights that there are innovative measures implemented by some trusts that have reduced the risk, but this good practice is yet to be implemented more widely.
- It is recommended that the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, working with relevant stakeholders, develop models and review workforce required for the optimal delivery of glaucoma care. The models should be tested and evaluated.
- It is recommended that NHS England/Improvement require commissioners to agree, under their service contracts, the action that providers will take to ensure compliance with the Portfolio of Indicators for Eye Health and Care follow-up performance standard. Where the standard has not been met, there should be a requirement for providers to demonstrate that they have reviewed individual pathways and taken action to mitigate risk, as well as to understand the causes of any unnecessary delays to inform improvement.
- It is recommended that NHS England/Improvement commission NHS Digital to publish reports of hospital eye services’ compliance with the follow-up appointments performance standard included in the Portfolio of Indicators for Eye Health and Care.
- It is recommended that NHS England/Improvement review the payment for the ongoing management of patients with glaucoma, regardless of setting. Pricing should reflect the complexity and costs of follow-up appointments and encourage new ways of working.
- It is recommended that NHS Digital include provision for identifying, prioritising and monitoring patients at risk of developing sight loss within the next version of the national Commissioning Data Set. Provision should include the ability to record a risk rating and the recommended follow-up date for each patient, meaning these are mandated data items for collection by hospital eye services.
- It is recommended that the Royal College of Ophthalmologists agree criteria for the risk stratification of patients with glaucoma so that practice can be standardised across NHS hospital eye services.
- It is recommended that the International Glaucoma Association facilitate the funding of research into the development and evaluation of an automated, predictive risk stratification tool.