The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) has welcomed COVID-19 Urgent Eye Services (CUES) as an additional route to support the potential diagnosis of retinoblastoma.
Retinoblastoma is a rare form of eye cancer that affects babies and young children, mainly under the age of six. Between 40 to 50 cases are diagnosed each year in the UK, the charity shared.
Figures released by the CHECT on Sunday (9 May) report that it took over six months for a diagnosis to be given for 24% of children who were diagnosed with retinoblastoma in 2020. This was up from 9% over the previous eight years. Furthermore, only 35% of children were referred within the recommended two-week period.
CUES was established in 2020 as a response to the pandemic and provides patients with access to an urgent assessment, treatment or referral by a local optometrist for sudden onset eye problems.
The charity shared the data during Word Retinoblastoma Awareness Week this week (9–15 May).
Chief executive of the CHECT, Patrick Tonks highlighted the “huge pressures” that have been placed on healthcare professionals in the past year, but stressed: “The delays in diagnosis we have seen in 2020 have the potential to seriously impact the prognosis for babies and children with eye cancer.”
Tonks explained: “We welcome the new CUES as a potential route to alleviate some of the current pressures on the health service, and ensure babies and children with retinoblastoma undergo a detailed examination as soon as any symptoms are observed, followed by an urgent onward referral where necessary.”
“In areas where CUES is not yet in place, we would recommend parents contact their GP or local optometrist in the first instance,” he added.