Ophthalmology Outpatient Waiting Times

As the professional and educational body for ophthalmologists in Ireland, it is of great concern to the Irish College of Ophthalmologists that waiting times for ophthalmology patients is amongst the most numerous in our health service, with latest NTPF figures (July 2019) indicating that there are 44,320 people waiting for an out-patient ophthalmology appointment.

This figure does not include the people, many of whom are children, on the community waiting list. This was calculated in the region of 30,000 in the HSE Primary Care Eye Services Review Group Report (PCESRG). 

Currently, there are not enough ophthalmologists appointed by the HSE to meet patient demand.   

The stark waiting numbers are highlighted in tandem with a recent report by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) which positions the specialty of ophthalmology in top place for deficit in appointed consultant numbers.  The recommended number of consultant’s posts in ophthalmology is 147.  The actual number of HSE appointed Consultant Ophthalmologists is 41.  

The ICO has for many years advocated on the need for additional resources in ophthalmology services, and has been actively engaged with the HSE and the Department of Health in efforts to develop sustainable and cost effective solutions to eye care delivery in the community and hospital setting.   

The establishment of the National Clinical Programme (NCP) for Ophthalmology in 2012 and it’s collaboration with the ICO, the HSE, the Department of Health and Sláintecare has resulted in a national blue print identifying the priorities for the implementation of a Model of Eye Care in Ireland. 

Ophthalmology has been a hospital focused specialty but many of the services can be provided within the community setting.   The Model of Care developed by the Ophthalmology Programme describes how the service can be delivered across hospital and community in an integrated model.

The efficient operation of the eye care team is critical to the delivery of this model.  Better developed community-based service with teams working in fully staffed and resourced clinics will facilitate the movement of a significant cohort of patients back to the community setting for their ongoing management, freeing the hospital ophthalmologists to prioritise the surgical waiting lists.

In addition to the existing community eye clinics, an extensive network of primary care centres have been developed nationally and these facilities are to be utilised under the Model of Eye Care plans.

The teams will see a combination of patients based on the priorities including;

  • Children
  • Adults
  • Hospital outpatient waiting lists
  • Community waiting lists
  • Ongoing care for patients diagnosed in the community
  • ongoing care for patients transferred from the acute
  • Pre and post-operative care for patients who have undergone cataract surgery
  • Chronic disease management for glaucoma, medical retina, diabetic patients

 

It is important to stress current developments in ophthalmology waiting times for patients.

Cataract is one of the highest volume surgeries carried out in Irish Hospitals with very good outcomes for patients. 

Waiting times for cataract procedures have improved with the increased capacity following the opening of the dedicated cataract units in Nenagh and the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin.  

The focus for the National Clinical Programme is to now tackle the long outpatient waiting times for ophthalmology patients and the next phase of work by the National Clinical Programme and HSE is underway in this regard.   

14th August 2019