40,000 people were on outpatient waiting lists for eye-care procedures at the end of 2017 – up from 32,823 at the end of 2016, a 21% increase.
13,812 of these people were waiting more than a year, with 7,589 waiting more than 18 months.
Furthermore, 11,150 people were awaiting inpatient eye procedures at the end of 2017 – the second largest inpatient list of any medical speciality. 1,747 were waiting more than a year, including 487 for more than 18 months. The Association of Optometrists (AOI) said Ireland’s eye-care services need to change urgently to meet ever-growing demand, as the population both increases and ages.
“In the UK and across Europe there has been a planned move towards routine public care being provided by Optometrists in the community and specialised care in hospitals. That is where Ireland needs to go to – towards a community based primary care model of eye-care. We have an unsustainable overreliance on hospital Ophthalmology Departments that cannot and will not meet demand,” AOI stated. Sligo
AOI Chief Executive Sean McCrave highlighted in particular that better organisation of cataracts surgery could significantly reduce waiting times.
“More than 20% of the outpatient waiting list is related to cataracts surgery appointments. At the end of 2017 there were 8,500 people awaiting cataract surgery alone – with waiting times of up to four years in some parts of the country. “To help solve this problem AOI is calling for national roll-out of the Sligo Post-Cataract Scheme, which has proven highly successful in reducing waiting times and costs in the North West.
“Under the scheme cataracts patients follow up appointment is co-managed by Optometrists in the community and Ophthalmologists in Hospital, reducing the patient pathway by one appointment.
“With over 20,000 cataract procedures a year, rolling out the Sligo protocol nationally would reduce out-patient cataract appointments by up to 20,000 with no capital expenditure. This step alone would make a significant impact to reduce unsafe delays within the public system,” Mr. McCrave said.
AOI said significant public money could be saved by reforming the eye-care system.
“€32m can be saved while at the same time delivering a better and quicker service because it is 50% less expensive to treat via the local Optometrist than in the hospital system. We have 600 Optometrists across the country who are trained, highly-skilled, have the necessary equipment and want to play a role to solve the waiting list crisis.” he said.