Health

Poor eye care 'leaving people blind', charity warns

Eye test

People may be going blind because clinics in England do not have the capacity to treat patients, a charity warns.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said soaring numbers of patients and new treatments had seen eye care stretched to breaking point.

It said it was "shameful" that people's eyesight was being damaged by delayed treatment.

It called for NHS England to hold an "urgent inquiry".

Almost two million people in the UK are completely or partially blind, a figure that is predicted to increase as people live longer.

The charity's report - Saving money, losing sight - warned of a "looming capacity crisis" in eye clinics across England.

'Shameful statistics'

A survey of 172 eye clinic staff showed 80% thought their unit was unable to meet current demand and that increased to 94% thinking their department would not be able to cope with further increases.

More than a third of staff said some of their patients were losing sight because treatment was being delayed.

Lesley-Anne Alexander, the RNIB's chief executive, said: "These statistics are shameful as nobody should lose their sight from a treatable condition simply because their eye clinic is too busy to provide care in a clinically appropriate timescale.

"Hospital managers are ignoring the capacity crisis, often to save money, and are putting patients' sight at risk and their staff on course for burnout."

She warned that hospitals may be putting themselves at risk of clinical negligence claims.

'Meet local needs'

The charity called for NHS England to have an "urgent inquiry" into the quality of care provided.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: "It is important that people have ready access to treatment they need.

"Clearly eye care is a critical matter for patients and can have long-term effects on them, their families and the health service and we would expect clinical commissioning groups to ensure that patients in their area have the ready access to the level of service that they require, but it is important that these are commissioned locally to meet local needs."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites