Waiting times at a Jersey hospital department are ‘unacceptable’, says Health Minister

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WAITING times for hospital eye appointments are ‘completely unacceptable’, the Health Minister has said – with some Islanders waiting more than a year to be seen.

Deputy Karen Wilson said the average waiting time for a routine ophthalmology appointment was 200 days, citing a post-Covid ‘backlog’ and difficulties recruiting staff as some of the factors responsible for the significant delays.

Her comments came during yesterday’s States sitting in response to a question from Reform Jersey Deputy Geoff Southern, who asked whether a waiting time of 200 days was ‘reflective of patients’ current experiences’.

Deputy Wilson said: ‘The average waiting time for a routine ophthalmology appointment is 200 days and therefore it is reflective of the experience of some patients. However, we know that other patients have experienced longer waiting time – some have waited over 400 days.

‘The triaging of referrals is carried out by consultants in ophthalmology and this is an individual consultant decision, depending on the information contained in the referral.

‘We concentrate on the clinical information relating to the risk of sight loss and whether this risk will be temporary – for example from cataract – or permanent, for example, from untreated retinal detachment or progressive glaucoma.’

She added that there were currently ‘no set guidelines’ on how to triage the referrals, because many patients were being referred with more than one problem.

‘For example, some have what they call watery-eye condition, some have a cataract condition and raised eye pressure. Therefore, this has always remained an individual consultant decision. Specifically for cataract referrals, the consultant practice is to prioritise patients with severe visual loss or patients, for example, with only one seeing eye.’

Deputy Southern asked the minister if she thought a 400-day wait was ‘unacceptable’, given that someone was likely to be treated much faster if they sought private healthcare.

Deputy Wilson responded: ‘I agree that the waiting list and the waiting times for treatment are completely unacceptable. There are a combination of factors around this, particularly in relation to recruitment difficulties that we have experienced in the ophthalmology department. Also, we are actually recovering post-Covid and there is a particular backlog.

‘One of the things that we are trying to achieve is to reduce those waiting lists and to come up with some schemes that will actually tackle some of those who have been waiting, in particular, over 90 days.’

The definitions for prioritising ophthalmologic interventions:

‘Urgent’: To be seen within two weeks

‘Soon’: to be seen within six weeks

‘Routine’: No identified standard

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