Timing is everything

A new RNIB project will call for patients to take charge in following up cancelled and delayed eye care


The growing number of postponed eye care appointments at hospitals is increasingly putting British patients’ sight at risk – and everyone, including patients, is being asked for their help.

A new initiative, a partnership between the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, will ask patients to self-advocate to ensure they see a doctor in the necessary timeframe.

RNIB eye health policy and campaigns officer, Holly Heath, told OT that the charity was concerned about the rising delays in hospital ophthalmic care particularly for the conditions of age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. The issue was highlighted by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in March.

Ms Heath emphasised: “We’re getting more and more phone calls from patients … With the ageing population, the capacity crisis is only going to go up.”

She explained that patients will receive materials encouraging them to ask the doctor for a specified date or time period in which they need a follow-up appointment. The guidance would also help a patient or carer to contact a clinic if it looks like they will not be seen within the follow-up period specified by the doctor.

“After a delayed or cancelled appointment, patients can think, ‘I’ll wait to hear from them [the clinic]’ but their clinician often isn’t aware of the situation,” Ms Heath said.

The patient materials are currently being tested, and will be launched for public use in autumn, she said.

It will also be critical to educate the general public, Ms Heath said, adding: “It’s about helping them understand the importance of follow-up appointments. They are there for a reason … We want to avoid irreversible sight loss.”

She added that all optical professionals can help to draw patients’ attention to the risk their sight faced if they received sporadic eye care.