Hundreds of patients in Shropshire are at risk of permanently losing their vision as a result of delays to vital sight-saving treatment at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.
The Macular Society has obtained documents via a freedom of information request following complaints by patients being treated at the hospital. The documents reveal that senior hospital staff have confirmed a ‘significant issue’ in the ophthalmology department and there are concerns that this is causing delays in treatment, which could lead to ‘irreversible vision loss’ for some patients.
It is understood that delays at the hospital are because of staff shortages, an increased demand in patients needing treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and a disagreement between hospital departments on whether the ophthalmology department should have its own fridge to store the drugs used to treat patients. The documents obtained by The Macular Society show that 128 patients with deteriorating eyesight waited longer than the national guidelines recommend. There are reportedly also e-mails from September 2017, in which internal staff commented that the trust was ‘going nowhere fast’ in trying to reform services for patients with wet AMD. Patients have told The Macular Societythat, although they were advised to have treatment within weeks, it was far longer before an appointment was issued.
Arran Macleod, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, comments: “This is terrible news. Suffering visual symptoms is an incredibly worrying and distressing problem. The guidelines to doctors are very clear: patients who demonstrate symptoms consistent with suspected wet AMD should be referred for care and management urgently, which often means within two weeks. Wet AMD affects central vision and once vision is lost, it cannot be restored. Prompt treatment is, therefore, absolutely vital.
“It is very worrying to read that patients appear to be knowingly put at risk by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. We act for many people who have suffered delays in receiving treatment for wet AMD and understand the impact of the loss of vision, which can occur rapidly following onset, on their everyday lives.
“If you, or a family member, have any concerns about the treatment you have received for wet AMD at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, then we would be happy to advise you on your options.”