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Health board failure forces eye patients to seek private treatment

30 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Christine Willison

Martin Shipton

A health board’s cancellation of essential treatment for patients with a degenerative eye condition has forced some to spend hundreds of pounds on getting injections outside Wales.

Christine Willison, an author and storyteller who lives in Pembrokeshire, was diagnosed with wet macular degeneration on October 3 2023.

The condition progresses rapidly, and if untreated, causes permanent and irreversible loss of central vision.

It can, however, be successfully controlled and stopped by timely and regular injections into the eye.

“Shocked”

Ms Willison said: “I received my first injection of the drug Eyelea on October 17, and subsequent injections on November 14th and December 12th. So far, Hywel Dda Health Board provided timely and successful treatment. Unfortunately that has now ended without warning or explanation.

“When I received the December injection, my consultant said he wanted to see me in four weeks for a fourth injection and to assess my progress. As the due time for my fifth injection in January approached, I phoned the Hywel Dda appointments number.

“I was shocked to be told that there were no appointments available, and there is now a six to eight week delay because of ‘staff shortages’. I explained that this was contrary to my consultant’s instruction. I was told that they were attempting to address this situation and would let me know. I have heard nothing since.

“Consulting my Fishguard optometrist a few days later, she told me that I must be treated at the due time, that other Welsh health boards had no such delays, but that I could not be treated elsewhere, which is a policy decision in Wales.

“I wrote to the Welsh Government Health Minister Eluned Morgan, telling her that this failure to provide timely treatment threatens my eyesight, breaches NICE [National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidelines and is at odds with my consultant’s clinical judgement.

“I have had only a holding reply, telling me I should get a proper response within 17 days. I consider that irrelevant and unhelpful. I have been forced to find private treatment, outside Wales, at a cost of hundreds of pounds.

“I have now heard from a local friend that a patient receiving ongoing treatment for glaucoma has also had treatment suspended. If treatment for eye conditions which has been prescribed by a consultant is unavailable, and no alternative offered, serious consequences are likely.

“If people cannot afford to go private, their sight will be at risk – something that is totally unacceptable.”

Concerns

Keith Jones, director of secondary care at Hywel Dda Health Board said: “While we are unable to comment on individual cases, we are sorry to hear of Ms Willison’s concerns and are working hard to improve waiting times for Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (WetAMD) appointments.

“Unfortunately, due to essential repair work at Withybush Hospital following the discovery of RAAC concrete planks at the site, we have had to relocate some urgent outpatient services to alternative locations across the health board and this has impacted our overall capacity within the service.

“We are pleased to confirm that the local delivery of patient injections for patients will be returning to Pembrokeshire in early February 2024 as we have identified a GP surgery from which eye injections can be provided until the RAAC infrastructure issues in Withybush have been resolved.

“We would wish to reassure all patients that the health board is progressing further opportunities to increase capacity and reduce waiting times. We have implemented additional actions to further increase capacity at weekends and have made improvements to the clinical pathway to reduce the frequency with which injections are required. These actions are helping to improve waiting times and the experience for patients.

“If a patient has any concerns regarding their treatment, we urge them to contact our Patient Support Service for help and guidance.”


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
26 days ago

Such a crass response from Eluned Morgan to, what is, a very serious implications and concern to Ms Willison. Typical politician in my opinion.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
26 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Typical for an entitled and enobled member of the Labour Party. She invokes an Ych-a-fi response in me!

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
26 days ago

It’s Hywel Dda health board so I’m not in the least surprised.

Plus she lives in Pembrokeshire where the services provided by Ysbyty Llwynhelyg are frankly so appalling I’m at a loss as to why the local population are so opposed to its proposed downgrading.

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