Welsh Government promises £4m investment in eyecare for Wales

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, has an announced a £4m investment as part of measures to transform eye care services across Wales.

The Secretary made the announcement at the All Wales National Eye Care Conference in Cardiff yesterday and said the investment will transform services to ensure patients are diagnosed and treated more quickly.

The full £4m will be allocated based on advice from an independent panel and could potentially include the expansion of existing community based treatment centres, additional training for medical staff to treat a greater range of patients and other activities to support sustainable services, as well as the introduction of a new performance measure to be introduced later this month, based on patient’s clinical need.

Wales is the first UK nation to introduce a measure of this kind for eye care patients alongside the existing referral to treatment target, and the changes are being introduced following consultation with ophthalmologists and RNIB.

Mr Gething said:

“Regular sight tests and early diagnosis are extremely important in order to prevent and treat eye disease.  Currently nearly 107,000 people in Wales are living with sight loss and this is predicted to double by 2050. Improving access and speeding up diagnosis are vital to ensure eye care services are fit for the future. 

“From this month, all eye care patients in Wales will be given a maximum waiting time following referral and any ongoing reviews based on their condition and risk of harm.

“We were the first government in the world to have an eye care delivery plan and are now the first in the UK to introduce a performance measure of this kind for eye care.  These changes are in line with our long term vision for the NHS in Wales to transform the way services are delivered, providing quality care closer to people’s homes.”

Leading eyecare provider Specsavers welcomed the Health Secretary’s announcement.  A spokesperson said:

“Our ‘Don’t lose the picture‘ campaign highlights that 50% of sight loss is avoidable.

“We welcome the Health Secretary’s announcement of the investment of £4m to help transform eye care in Wales.  The timing of this announcement is particularly apt as it is National Eye Health Week next week and Specsavers is running a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of eye health and encouraging people to book eye tests.

“Specsavers and RNIB’s joint report ‘State of the Nation‘ reveals that 25% of people do not have regular eye tests, so we are encouraging anybody who hasn’t had one in the last two years to book one.”