A way forward after COVID-19

Newmedica medical director, Nigel Kirkpatrick, discussed the recovery of ophthalmology services post-pandemic at 100% Optical

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Newmedica medical director, Nigel Kirkpatrick, discussed tackling the ophthalmology backlog in the wake of COVID-19 at 100% Optical (London ExCel, 23-25 April).

During his presentation, Post-COVID recovery of ophthalmology services in partnership with community optometry, Kirkpatrick noted that the number of people waiting for hospital care was “gradually creeping up” in the lead up to the pandemic.

“In the run up to COVID-19, NHS targets were slipping,” he said.

Kirkpatrick said that the list of people who had been waiting for treatment in secondary care for longer than a year “went off the scale” following the pandemic.

Those waiting for NHS treatment is now the size of the whole population of Denmark, he noted.

The NHS aims to eliminate two-year waits by July 2022, with 18-month waits ended by April 2023 and one-year waits eliminated by 2025.

Kirkpatrick noted that there needs to be a focus on the quality and capacity of NHS services as the backlog is addressed.

Staffing is a “massive factor” while there are also issues of capital equipment.

Kirkpatrick shared that public opinion on the NHS has declined since 2016 – with waitlists prompted by COVID-19 exacerbating this trend.

“With this loss of faith, some people choose to spend their money privately,” he said.

Kirkpatrick noted that the independent sector has been rising for the past five to seven years within eye care.

Independent providers have the potential to offer patients care in a convenient location with a shorter time in clinic.

“It’s a very vibrant market and it is offering patients choice,” Kirkpatrick highlighted.

He added that the role of optometrists in recommending independent providers is crucial.

“You are the key agent in terms of where patients go for their treatment – how well do you know the people you are referring your patient to?” Kirkpatrick asked.

A good relationship between optometrists and independent providers is important when navigating any post-operative issues, Kirkpatrick said.