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Ophthalmology waiting lists tackled by Trusts across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire

Trusts across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West have worked together to treat patients who have been waiting the longest for cataract, squint and ocular plastics surgery in just a fortnight.

Due to pressures due to Covid-19 pandemic, many patients across the region had been waiting six months or longer for their planned surgery in January. Ophthalmology Departments from Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care System (BOB ICS) put on a burst of increased surgical activity for two weeks in January.

The push to clear the backlog of patients was driven by the region’s larger work around elective recovery following the Covid pandemic. Ophthalmology was targeted in particular as it had a high volume of patients waiting a longer period, and with more beds needed due to winter pressures that there was an opportunity increase surgical capacity around day treatments that do not require admission.

Over the two week period, across the region more than 700 ophthalmology operations were performed.

In Berkshire West, across the Prince Charles Eye Unit in Windsor, West Berkshire Community Hospital and Royal Berkshire Hospital, 315 cataract, corneal transplants and squint operations were completed in just two weeks. This has reduced the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to just 31 patients – largely due to lack of donor material.

At Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, 147 additional cataract, corneal transplants and squint operations were completed in just two weeks. This has reduced the number of patients waiting longer than 52 weeks to just 46 patients.

The Trusts were able to clear the backlog through greater collaboration and innovation. In Berkshire West, they set up one-stop cataract clinics so that most patients were able to be diagnosed, and prepared ready for surgery in a single visit. Arrangements were made with community optometry practices to have post-operative checks carried out in the community. Patient records have been switched to a fully digital system providing greater flexibility and giving the Trust ability to treat patients at whichever site has capacity.

In Oxfordshire, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) have set up a virtual community ophthalmic clinic in Wantage, which they hope to expand throughout this year, to offer general, medical retina, and vascular appointments, as well as cataract preassessment. 

In Buckinghamshire, by working closely with colleagues from the anaesthetic, paediatric theatre and Oral Maxillo-Facial Surgery teams, and by making full use of the purpose-built cataract theatre unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, ophthalmology were able to implement a revised two-week timetable to successfully tackle their elective care waiting list.

Dom Hardy, Chief Operating Officer for Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Like many Trusts across the country, the past several years have seen us face unprecedented challenges and high levels of demand. We understand the impact that long waits can have on the quality of life for our patients which is why elective recovery is such a priority for us. We’re really proud of the innovative work being done by teams like Ophthalmology to reduce waiting lists and how we have been able to work our partners across the region to deliver patient outcomes together.”

Sara Randall, Chief Operating Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our eye surgery team worked tirelessly to treat 242 long-waiting patients over two weeks in January 2022.  We are committed to offering comprehensive ophthalmic surgery in our trust and remain grateful for everyone’s patience and co-operation.”

Consultant Ophthalmologist at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Dr Sarah Maling said: “Overall the initiative was a success for our service. We had already started working through our waiting list but this additional focus in January resulted in a substantial 86% reduction to our long waiters list since October and will have such a positive impact, not only on these patients, but on patients being referred to us now and in the future.”   

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