Better Eye-care For All

Issued by the Association of Optometrists Ireland Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Optometrists call on new Government to eliminate children’s eye-care waiting lists.

Optometrists have called on the next Government to eliminate children’s eye-care waiting lists – by moving to a community based model of eyecare. In a submission to all newly elected TDs today, the Association of Optometrists (AOI) said waiting lists for children’s eye-care are up to five years long in some parts of the country which is highly unacceptable.

AOI said that these waiting lists could be solved quickly and cost effectively by providing routine eye-care in the community through Optometrists, rather than referring all cases to HSE Clinics, or specialist Hospital services which are overwhelmed by demand.

AOI Optometric Advisor Lynda McGivney Nolan called for commitment in the Programme for Government to a community based approach to eyecare, similar to what has been successfully introduced in parts of the UK.

“In particular, children’s waiting lists can be solved quickly by referring children from the existing Primary School Children Optical Scheme to their local Optometrist, rather than Community Clinics which have waiting lists of two to five years for non-urgent cases and up to six months for urgent cases. There are 300 Optometry locations across the country with the skills, capacity and equipment to provide a service for all referrals (19,000 per annum) within days."

“Routine cases (such as prescribing glasses, treating a basic condition, or monitoring an early stage disease) could be wholly managed at community level. More complex or urgent cases can be referred by the Optometrist to specialist Clinic and Hospital services."

“On the estimation of a HSE Community Clinic examination costing €100 per visit and an Optometrist €60 per exam (plus other additional savings), at the current level of 100,000+ children’s annual examinations, annual cost savings of €5.4m can be achieved."

Ms. McGivney Nolan said that the current organisation of Irish eye-care does not represent the best use of skills, or resources to meet the needs of the population and increasing demand. Nor does the service deliver optimum health outcomes for those who have, or will have, eye disease.

“Unacceptable waiting times mean that opportunities for prevention through early intervention are missed. It also means that diagnosis and treatment are delayed and prognosis worsened. Also there are very significant variations in waiting times and access to services across the country, depending on regional HSE infrastructure, which is highly inequitable."

“These unacceptable delays, and regional disparities, are caused by an historical dependence on almost exclusively using HSE Clinic and Hospital based services – even for basic and routine cases.This system is unsustainable as it has inadequate capacity, requires large capital outlay, removes care from the community, is administration heavy and is expensive to run. Against this, demand on the system is increasing significantly year on year as the population increases and ages."

“AOI recommends moving towards community based model of eye-care in which Optometrists provide a triage service, with all routine cases managed in the community and more complex or urgent cases referred to regional multidisciplinary teams or specialist services."

“In adult eye-care we have calculated that savings of €14.5m can be made by taking routine diagnosis, check ups, and monitoring of diseases such as Glaucoma, Cataract, AMD, diabetes related eye problems and red eye out of the hospital system."

“Each of the political parties promised a shift from hospital to community based health services in their General Election Manifestoes. As negotiations to form the next Government are taking place, today we are providing an evidence based, proven and cost saving model for how that change can be done in eye-care,” Ms McGivney-Nolan said.

AOI’s submission A Community Based Model for Eye-care can be read and downloaded below.

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317

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