Hundreds of patients have suffered sight loss while caught up in backlogs for NHS care, official data has revealed. Clinicians reported 551 cases due to delayed treatment appointments in England since 2019.
Data released by NHS England in response to a Freedom of Information request showed of the total, 99 incidents resulted in “severe harm”.
One patient with wet age-related macular degeneration lost vision in one eye after a monthly injection was delayed three months.
There were more than 632,000 people waiting for ophthalmology appointments in England in January.
This includes 24,000 patients who had waited for over a year.
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has declared a health emergency and called for urgent action to cut waiting times.
Adam Sampson, the group’s chief executive, said community optometrists should be drafted in to take on some services to help clear backlogs.
He said: “Hospitals are overrun, and the NHS is collapsing under patient need. There are good treatments available for common age-related conditions…but many hospitals don’t have the capacity to deliver.”
A survey of 500 people with eye conditions who received treatment within the last two years found 57 percent had a delay.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “No one should have to suffer avoidable sight loss and we are taking action to improve access to services.”
An NHS spokesperson said Covid had a “significant impact on routine and elective care”, but it was using high street optometrists to bring waits down.