Patients are waiting too long to receive vital treatment which could help save their sight, according to a new report.
The Macular Disease Society quizzed ophthalmologists on how long people diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration are waiting before they are seen by specialists.
The investigation, which was commissioned by Vision 2020 UK’s Macular Interest Group, found more than 50 per cent of eye clinics were failing to stick to Royal College of Ophthalmologists guidelines which say patients should be treated within two weeks of them finding out they are suffering from the condition.
People with wet age-related macular degeneration can quickly lose the use of their eyes if they are not given a drug to stop blood and fluid getting into the retina. The medication, which is regularly administered using a needle into the eye, can prevent this damage, which has a lasting impact on sight.
The survey found almost 9 per cent of patients were being forced to wait more than eight weeks for their first treatment. And an additional 42 per cent are left for between two and four weeks before being given their first dose of the drug.
After the first treatment, national guidelines say sufferers should be monitored on a monthly basis. But in more than eight out of 10 specialist eye clinics, patients are being seen less regularly than every four weeks.
And almost one in 10 clinics admitted they were providing either a poor or very poor service.
But the study found almost 50 per cent of clinics are going the extra mile to deal with the number of people needing treatment by putting on additional sessions outside of normal opening hours.
Winfried Amoaku, chair of the Macular Interest Group said: “The NHS needs, urgently, to consider how it will meet demand for this treatment. If it doesn’t, patients will lose their sight unnecessarily. It doesn’t make sense to use these treatments less frequently than required, as we know the results will be poor. We can achieve much more for patients with a little more investment in resources.”
Helen Jackman, chief executive of the Macular Disease Society, said: “We know eye clinics are working very hard to treat patients in a timely way but they must have the resources to do the job. Losing your central vision to AMD is devastating, all the more so if it is lost when there is a treatment which works.”