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More than 20 patients a month suffer sight loss due to NHS delays

Number of glaucoma sufferers is expected to rise by 44% by 2035

Around 22 glaucoma patients a month suffer severe or permanent sight loss because of delays to follow-up appointments, a report reveals.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) said there is inadequate hospital eye services (HES) capacity to meet demand for glaucoma services.

Its report found there are innovative measures implemented by some trusts that have reduced the risk, but this good practice is yet to be implemented more widely.

Keith Conradi, HSIB’s chief investigator, warned that the delay to appointments once patients are diagnosed exacerbates the risk of sight loss in patients across England.

He warned that things will only worsen as the population ages – a 44% increase in the number of people with glaucoma is predicted by the year 2035.

Mike Burdon, president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, added that with demand for ophthalmic services predicted to rise by more than 40% over the next 20 years, urgent action is needed.

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.

The patient saw seven different ophthalmologists and the time between her initial referral to HES and laser eye surgery was 11 months. By this time her sight had deteriorated so badly, she was registered as severely sight impaired.