A new project aims to reduce the number of eye clinic appointments that are cancelled, delayed or missed.
The self-advocacy pilot, Ask and Tell, follows research by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists that shows approximately 20 patients a month experience sight loss as a result of hospital-initiated appointment delays.
Ask and Tell encourages patients to ask their eye doctor when their next appointment should be and to tell reception staff the date so it is kept. The pilot also aims to raise awareness among eye clinic reception and administration staff about the importance of follow up appointments to avoid preventable sight loss.
The six-month project is being trialled by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in partnership with the Macular Society, International Glaucoma Association and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
Ask and Tell features online resources, posters and leaflets in clinics as well as an animation that has been created for eye clinics to display on their screens about speaking up.
RNIB eye health policy and campaigns officer, Ben Kitching, told OT that the information resources highlighted the importance of turning up to scheduled appointments and clearly explained to patients what they should expect when they attend an eye clinic.
“Knowing what should happen at the eye clinic can help patients feel confident about speaking to their doctor about when their next appointment is,” Mr Kitching emphasised.
“We know patients can sometimes lack the confidence to challenge delays in their treatment so encouraging them to speak up in a constructive way is important,” he added.
International Glaucoma Association chief executive, Karen Osborn, told OT that she thought the pilot project would have a positive impact on patients.
“We know from our helpline and from our own research that delays to hospital appointments are increasing. Callers are anxious and stressed about the impact his will have on their condition,” she highlighted.
The hospitals taking part in the Ask and Tell pilot are the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, Royal Blackburn Hospital, Salisbury District Hospital, West of England Eye Unit at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Great Western Hospital (Swindon), Moorfields Eye Hospital and Heartlands Hospital (Birmingham).
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists president, Carrie MacEwen, told OT that Ask and Tell was a great example of providing patients with tools that encourage them to manage and understand the importance of keeping their scheduled eye appointments as advised by consultants.