AOP launches #SightWontWait campaign

The Association of Optometrists is calling on the Government to draw on the optometry workforce in addressing the patient backlog

SP AOP campaign

The AOP is calling on the Government to commit to a national eye health strategy after revealing that 628,502 people are waiting for ophthalmology appointments in England alone.

The #SightWontWait campaign highlights that among the patients waiting for ophthalmology treatment, 27,260 have been waiting for a year or more.

Close to half of AOP members surveyed (43%) raised serious concerns over the number of patients they had seen who could lose sight unnecessarily as a result of long waiting lists and cancelled appointments.

A poll of 496 Macular Society members revealed that the majority (57%) had experienced a delay while waiting for an NHS appointment.

Of those who experienced delays, nearly half (47%) had experienced a decline in vision during this time.

Macular Society chief executive, Cathy Yelf, highlighted that the charity is receiving regular phone calls from people who are worried that they are going to lose their vision because of delays.

“The ones who contact us are the ones who are actively trying to solve the problem. We have no idea how many people sit at home, quietly losing their vision and not making a fuss about it,” she said.

The #SightWontWait campaign follows a Freedom of Information request by Optometry Today that revealed clinicians have reported more than 200 cases of people losing their vision due to treatment delays since 2019.

AOP chief executive, Adam Sampson, highlighted that the NHS is “collapsing under patient need.”

“There are good treatments available for common age-related eye conditions, like macular degeneration, but many hospital trusts simply do not have the capacity to deliver services. Optometry is ideally placed to take away some of that burden – optometrists are already qualified to provide many of the extended services needed and are available on every High Street, so patients can be treated closer to home,” he shared.

Sampson added that a national eye health strategy would enable more patients to be seen quickly and locally.

“It’s incomprehensible and absolutely tragic that patients are waiting, losing their vision, in many parts of the country because of the way eye healthcare is commissioned. With a national strategy for eye care we can take a critical stride towards improving care and outcomes for patients,” he said.

The AOP is encouraging the optometry profession, and members of the public, to contact their constituency MP to support the demand for change, with more information available online.