The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom is facing a significant backlog of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people waiting for critical treatments and appointments. Now, a new Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that this backlog is leading to life-changing sight loss for some patients.
According to the FOI request, the backlog for ophthalmology services, which includes treatments for conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma, has increased significantly over the past two years. In some cases, patients are waiting for up to two years for their appointments and treatments, which is leading to irreversible vision loss and potentially life-changing consequences.
The FOI request found that nearly 300,000 patients are currently waiting for ophthalmology services in England alone, and many of these patients are experiencing significant delays in receiving their treatments. For example, more than 12,000 patients are waiting for cataract surgery, which is a relatively simple procedure that can prevent blindness in many cases.
The delay in treatment is not only causing significant emotional and physical distress for patients but also leading to increased costs for the NHS in the long run. Delayed treatment often leads to more complicated and costly procedures, which could have been avoided if the patient had received treatment earlier.
The FOI request has highlighted the urgent need for the NHS to address the backlog of patients and increase funding for ophthalmology services. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has called on the government to take action and invest in eye care services to prevent further deterioration of patients’ vision and avoidable sight loss.
The RNIB has also called for the introduction of a new waiting time target for ophthalmology services, similar to the target for cancer services, which requires patients to receive treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral. This would ensure that patients receive timely treatment and prevent further deterioration of their vision.
The backlog of patients in the NHS is a significant issue that needs urgent attention. The FOI request has highlighted the devastating consequences of delayed treatment for patients, and it is essential that the government takes action to address this issue. Investing in eye care services and introducing waiting time targets could help prevent further sight loss and ensure that patients receive timely and appropriate treatment.