12,000 cancelled eye appointments putting patients’ sight at risk

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An average of 33 eye clinic appointments were cancelled at Blackpool Victoria Hospital every day last year – a figure experts say is putting people’s eye-sight at risk.

Some 6,524 appointments were scrapped for Blackpool residents, as well as 5,621 for those living in Wyre and Fylde – more than 15 per cent of all appointments made.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies, who has written to bosses asking for an explanation, told The Gazette: “What we have here in Fylde and Blackpool is off the scale. It is shocking just how bad the situation is and it must improve.

“South Manchester has a cancellation rate of 0.08 per cent, and Liverpool, 3.6 per cent. It’s so bad on the Fylde coast it is embarrassing.

“It’s a serious issue and something is going wrong. We are talking about people potentially losing their sight because appointments are being cancelled again and again.”

The Gazette asked both Blackpool, and Fylde and Wyre clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust why so many appointments have been called.

It also asked how many were rearranged and how quickly.

In a joint statement, the CCGs, which are responsible for organising and paying for residents’ health care, said: “We recognise there is an issue with regard to cancelled appointments for eye clinics at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“We will support the trust as it works to improve patient experience in this area.”

A spokesman for Fylde and Wyre CCG said the hospital trust was responsible for explaining the cancellations.

The hospital said in a statement it was ‘aware of the issues highlighted’ and accept the figures ‘are totally unacceptable’, but did not answer the questions set out.

“We are working hard to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” a spokesman added.

Mr Menzies said he has also asked what the problem is, and how the situation can be improved.

“I don’t want us improving to the average, I want us to be one of the lowest cancelled appointment rates in the country,” he added.

“I know first-hand that the staff are professional and care for patients very well, but there is obviously an issue here.”

Sally Harvey, the acting chief executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, added: “No-one should lose their sight needlessly because their eye clinic was too busy to treat them on time.

“Patients must be seen by their eye clinic within an appropriate time for their condition.

“Patients can also help themselves by attending their eye clinic appointment and not miss or cancel them. Doing so puts their sight at risk, prevents other patients being given timely appointments, and costs the NHS money.”

A further 4,902 appointments were classed as ‘missed’, it was revealed.