Call for eye care overhaul as 50,000 patients on wait list

A radical overhaul of eye care services is needed to tackle massive waiting lists, with more than 50,000 currently on outpatient and inpatient lists.

That’s according to the Association of Optometrists (AOI) who are calling for an end to over-reliance on hospitals for eye care, and greater emphasis on services in the community.

The association has repeatedly held up the example of the Sligo Post-Cataract scheme as an example of how to cut costs and waiting times, and has called for its national rollout. AOI has previously said one-fifth of the outpatient waiting list concerns cataracts, which could be alleviated by rolling out the Sligo model which is in use in the North-West for nine years.

The Programme for Government states: “We will update the national eye care plan, including evaluation of the Sligo model for cataract surgery”.

The model was evaluated and found optometrists provide “an excellent post-operative care service”, but it has not been rolled out.

Under the scheme, cataract patients’ follow-up appointments are co-managed by optometrists in the community, and ophthalmologists in hospital, so instead of two follow-up hospital appointments, patients have one.

Figures at the end of December show almost 42,000 people were on the outpatient waiting list, including 16,200 people waiting more than a year. Another 9,300 people were awaiting inpatient procedures.

AOI president Patricia Dunphy said they estimate that in excess of €30m could be saved by delivering more eye care in the community.

AOI is also calling for an optometrist-led national children’s eye-care programme and optometrist prescribing rights for antibiotic and steroid drops.

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