Plaid slam Labour NHS mismanagement as thousands of patients could ‘needlessly’ go blind because of waiting times

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Ophthalmology waiting times should be ‘watershed moment’ says Plaid’s Helen Mary Jones AM

New figures from Stats Wales have shown that thousands of ophthalmology patients could end up permanently losing their sight because of long waiting times, cancelled and delayed appointments.

Figures show that 100,223 ophthalmology patients, who are classed as R1 (risk 1) patients meaning they are “at risk of irreversible harm or significant patient adverse outcome if patient target date is missed”, are currently waiting for an appointment.

The stats show that over 34,500 of those patients classed as ‘high risk’ have already waited significantly longer than clinically safe. The true numbers waiting at dangerous levels are likely to be even higher due to the way the statistics are presented. Even if a patient waits longer than the target time they can still be classed as hitting the target time if they “only” wait less than 25% longer than they should.

Plaid Cymru have called the statistics are ‘outrageous’ and have said it should be a ‘watershed moment’ for Labour and “the way they mismanage our NHS”.

Helen Mary Jones AM, Plaid Cymru shadow minister for health and social services said that ‘brilliant frontline staff’ were being led by poor management and lack of delivery.

Ms Jones said that he father has lost his sight due to long waiting times thirty years ago and said it was an ‘abject failure’ of the government that the same issue had not been tackled ‘three decades on’.

Helen Mary Jones AM, Plaid Cymru shadow minister for health and social services said,

“This is outrageous. Thousands of patients are at direct risk of permanently going blind because health boards are not meeting their waiting list targets. Patients end up waiting too long for simple care and timely treatments and needlessly lose their sight. 

“This should be a watershed moment for the Labour Welsh Government and the way they mismanage our NHS.

“Thirty years ago, my father needlessly lost his sight because of waiting times. It is shocking and a sign of the abject failure of this government that patients are facing irreversible harm or blindness three decades on.

 “The funding announced today to transform eye care services in Wales is not a new announcement and simply throwing more money towards health boards will not solve the current problems of lack of delivery. In the long run, this poor performance costs the taxpayer significantly more dealing with the consequence of sight loss, keeping somebody healthy is always cheaper.

“We have brilliant frontline staff being led by poor managers. We need a radical transformation of our NHS in Wales with a focus on delivery and achieving waiting times so that, in this instance, people with treatable conditions do not lose their sight unnecessarily.”

Dr Dai Lloyd AM and Plaid Cymru shadow minister for social care and chair of the Senedd Cross-Party Group on Vision added,

“As Chair of the CPG on Vision I welcome the publication of these new waiting time measures. We’ve been calling for these figures for years, to prove how bad the service is. The government have had these figures internally for years. Now, for the first time ever, we are now able to publically show the extent of the problem, and this can be monitored over time.

“A large number of patients are simply not receiving the service that they need and deserve and for sufferers of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, regular and timely follow-up appointments are vital in order to avoid deterioration in the patients’ sight.

“These are patients that have been assessed as needing follow-up care for review and possible changes to treatment, but they are simply not receiving the required care as per NICE guidelines.

“The Welsh Government must step up its efforts to plug this capacity-demand mismatch, and ensure that improving the experience of patients on the follow-up waiting lists is a national priority.”

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