North East Wales

Delays put north Wales eye patients at risk claims charity

Image caption Officials say they are making changes to reduce waits for eye patients

Appointment delays at the Wrexham Maelor hospital are putting patients' eyesight at risk, claims a charity.

The Macular Society said one patient faced a 10-week wait to see a consultant when guidelines recommend no more than a two-week delay.

The society said it had also uncovered delays exceeding two weeks at two-thirds of NHS hospitals across the UK.

Health officials apologised and said more needed to be done to reduce waiting times.

The criticism of the Wrexham hospital follows the case of Ann Smith, which has been highlighted by the Macular Society.

Mrs Smith was referred to the hospital after an annual eye check suggested she might have developed the condition wet macular degeneration, which affects the central vision and is the most common cause of sight loss in the UK.

The recommended time frame for an appointment with someone with the condition is two weeks, but Mrs Smith was told there was up to a 10-week waiting list.

After waiting nine weeks for an appointment she was told she did not have wet macular degeneration, but a split to her retina.

'Frightened me'

She is now on a waiting list to see a specialist.

"I'm getting really worried because my sight is at stake. I'm usually a strong person, but this situation has frightened me," she said.

"I'm in limbo and I feel my sight is getting worse. I'm none the wiser about what is going on or when I am likely to get another appointment.

"I know they are overworked as a department, but when people are losing their sight because of delays it is unacceptable.

"If something can be done to help someone but resources stop that happening, then there is a real problem."

'Waiting times'

A Freedom of Information request by the Macular Society found two-thirds of NHS trusts were failing to meet guidelines on first appointments or follow ups.

"It is unacceptable that Maelor hospital is failing Mrs Smith and other patients in this way," said Helen Jackman, the chief executive of the society.

She added people would experience "unnecessary and irreversible sight loss" due to the delays.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board apologised for the delay.

"We know how important it is for patients suspected of having wet age macular degeneration to be seen promptly and have put in place improvements to manage and reduce waiting times at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital," said a spokesperson.

"We did have a backlog of patients referred to the service at Wrexham so we put on additional clinical sessions and updated how patients are assessed. We also brought some appointments forward.

"However, we acknowledge that there is still more work to be done to further reduce the waiting times and we are committed to achieving the improvements necessary."

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