RNIB Cymru welcomes the Cabinet Secretary’s assurances, but remains concerned about ophthalmology services across Wales

Ahead of the Cross Party Group on Vision on Tuesday, RNIB Cymru are welcoming the Cabinet Secretary’s assurances, but are still concerned that ophthalmology services across Wales remain inconsistent and leave many facing severe delays. With clinical audits showing that 90 per cent of follow up patients are at risk of irreversible harm to their sight, equating to 33,351 of 37,257 eye patients who have been seen by a clinician, RNIB Cymru has welcomed the results of correspondence between Dr Dai Lloyd AM and Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health.


Writing in his role as Chair of the Cross Party Group on Vision earlier this year, Dr Lloyd highlighted continuous eye care concerns raised by a number of patients, stakeholders – including RNIB Cymru – and civil servants at the last meeting of the Cross Party in March.


The Cabinet Secretary was asked to comment on actions being taken to address concerns such as referral to treatment times (RTT) and the issues surrounding data collection problems, which continues to be a major factor in delayed appointments; concerns which were also raised by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) in their thematic review earlier this year.


In his response to the Cross Party Group, the Cabinet Secretary pointed to the establishment of the Planned Care Programme to provide sustainable ophthalmic services and better RTT performance; actions in place by way of the Eye Care Delivery Plan and Planned Care Ophthalmology Improvement plan to address concerns raised by the HIW report; a national plan of action developed by the national Eye Care Steering Board; and, the awaited report from the task and finish group established to look at proposals for a possible alternative to RTT for the measurement of ophthalmology.


The Cabinet Secretary also refers to the reminder given to NHS organisations of the need to have robust systems in place to report potential harm to patients associated with a delay in ophthalmic care, and the need to report those incidents; and, the importance of up skilling health care professionals and the exploration of the potential for joint nursing and optometry training and research initiatives.


Emma Sands, Public Affairs Manager, RNIB Cymru has welcomed the commitment made by the Minister to improve ophthalmic services, but remains concerned at the pace of change and the inconsistency across Wales:


“As the secretariat to the Cross Party Group on Vision, RNIB has regularly called for consistency across Wales to ensure that patients are able to access the services they require at the right time and in the right place to avoid people losing their sight, or suffering unnecessary damage to their eyes.


“Despite some improvements and assurances from the Minister, all of which we welcome, patient experiences shared at the Cross Party meeting in March and regularly to our staff, is evidence that not all patients remain unable to access the service they require in the right place and at the right time; and whilst these issues remain patients could be losing their sight.”


The next Cross Party Group on Vision will be held at Ty Hywel on Tuesday 11 July and will include a discussion with Angela Hughes, Chair of the Listening and Learning from Feedback Group and Martin Semple, Nursing Officer for patient experience. They will advise of the feedback from across Wales collated from the Welsh NHS Experience leads.


For further information please email RNIB Cymru Bilingual Communications Manager richard.timothy@rnib.org.uk or phone 029 2082 8563.

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