KGH not treating 20 per cent of eye patients in time

Kettering General Hospital.Kettering General Hospital.
Kettering General Hospital. | jpimedia
Kettering General Hospital is not treating one-fifth of patients waiting for eye surgery in the correct time.

The hospital says it is now outsourcing some appointments to the private sector and is putting on additional eye clinics in an attempt to reduce the backlog with just over 500 patients currently waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment after being referred to the hospital.

Latest figures show that only 80 per cent of the acute hospital’s eye patients are being treated within the national 18 week target from first referral and according to the county’s clinical commissioning group’s latest board papers the risks are that some people could go blind if not treated in the correct time.

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The review by the CCG also found the hospital also has an administrative issue and a backlog of 1,200 letters that should have been sent to the patients’ GPs.

Kettering General Hospital’s chief operating officer Jo Fawcus said: “Kettering General Hospital is working hard to improve the waiting times for its eye patients from its current rate of 80 per cent of patients being treated within 18 weeks of first referral towards the national target of 92 per cent.

“We have put on additional clinics and are currently outsourcing 180 patient appointments to the private sector as a way of reducing waiting times.

“The CCG board paper also refers to 1,200 letters for information to GPs. This relates to an administrative backlog in sending out letters to GPs which explain why a patient has been seen in hospital.

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“We have examined the backlog and there is no evidence of any harm coming to patients, but it is something we are addressing as a priority and are currently exploring how we can increase our administrative capacity to catch up.”

The findings come after it was reported earlier this spring that the county’s two acute hospitals were thousands of follow up appointments short of what is needed. Follow up appointments after surgery are crucial to monitor eye health and surgery success. The CCG has commissioned a local harm review to find out whether any patients have suffered as a result of waiting for appointments.

The problem is not specific to Northamptonshire’s acute hospitals, with the situation being echoed in many parts of the country.

There is a shortage of ophthalmologists (eye doctors) and also a growing ageing population who need treatment for chronic eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. All the country’s health trusts are currently taking part in a national review of ophthalmology.

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Jo Fawcus said: “Our part at Kettering General Hospital in this national programme has been to review our patient list to consider whether delays may be having an impact on patients with conditions such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

“Our review has focused on identifying the high risk patients with these conditions and they will all have been offered an appointment by the end of December. So far no patients have been found to have come to harm.

“We have reviewed our referral and discharge processes to ensure our prioritisation is robust and where, during the review, we have identified any patient who would benefit from further review we have ensured that this is provided.”

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporting Service