Glaucoma patient waits cut at Black Country hospital trust

Waiting times for glaucoma patients have been drastically cut after a Black Country NHS trust streamlined services.

Patient Pat Blewitt with ophthalmic technician Laura Sutton at the Corbett Outpatient Centre in Dudley
Patient Pat Blewitt with ophthalmic technician Laura Sutton at the Corbett Outpatient Centre in Dudley

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of patients seen each week by the Dudley NHS Trust rose from 600 to 1,200.

The trust has been able to achieve this by transferring its diagnostic services to a medical facility outside its main hospital at Russells Hall.

Patients are being taken to Corbett Outpatient Centre, in Stourbridge, where expert medical staff, equipped with high-tech eye scanning equipment, can diagnose and treat patients.

Babar Elahi, a glaucoma surgeon and clinical director at the trust, said: "We have very good waiting times.

Clinical Director Mr Babar Elahi

"When we entered the pandemic, we had a waiting list of more than 3,000 patients. We were usually having appointments of more than 500 to 600 patients per week.

"To expose them to an acute hospital [Russells Hall], where all the Covid-19 is coming, we need to move away from it.

"All ophthalmology was based at Russells Hall Hospital. They would only come here [Corbett] for injections.

"I asked them for four rooms, which we got. Half of the machines came from that centre [Russells Hall].

"That is why got the numbers down because we created an additional capacity in the while system.

"We took that number from 600 to 1,200, per week. Our waiting time just crashed."

Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brains, becomes damaged.

Pat Blewitt
Clinical director Mr Babar Elahi

There are a variety of treatments available, including medicine and surgery.

Mr Elahi said: "Eight per cent of all appointments in the NHS is ophthalmology.

"That is a big number for a speciality. The number of eye referrals have gone up by 12 per cent between 2013 to 2018.

"Glaucoma is a lifelong condition, like you have diabetes or high blood pressure, that stays with you.

"When it stays with you, the loss or effect of glaucoma, untreated, is irreversible loss of vision."

Among the patients being treated at the medical centre is Pat Blewitt, aged 72 from Dudley, who was first diagnosed with glaucoma in her 40s.

She said: "This place is superb, it is first class. It is run exceptionally well. What I like is all the tests are done in one area."

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