DELAYS at Wrexham Maelor hospital’s eye department could put patients’ sight at risk, it is feared.
Ann Smith, 68, of Garden Village, was advised she would have to wait up to 10 weeks for an appointment.
Guidelines from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists recommend people suspected of having macular degeneration – a painless condition that leads to the loss of central vision – are given an appointment within two weeks.
Mrs Smith visited her optometrist in September for an annual check up and was told she may have the onset of wet macular degeneration and would need to be referred to the Maelor Hospital.
After the recommended two week time frame for an appointment expired, Mrs Smith’s optometrist wrote to the hospital to highlight the delay.
Representatives then contacted Mrs Smith to say there was a waiting list of up to 10 weeks.
After waiting nine weeks to have an appointment, Mrs Smith was told she did not have wet macular degeneration, but a “split” in her retina.
She was advised she would have to be referred to a specialist and has been given no indication when that appointment will take place.
She said: “I’m getting really worried because my sight is at stake. I’m usually a strong person, but this situation has frightened me.
“I’m in limbo and I feel my sight is getting worse. I’m none the wiser about what is going on or when I am likely to get another appointment.
“I know they are overworked as a department, but when people are losing their sight because of delays it is unacceptable. If something can be done to help someone but resources stop that happening, then there is a real problem.
“I feel sorry for the staff in the department as they are so overworked. They are very nice people. It’s the waiting in between appointments that is the problem.”
A Freedom of Information Act request from the Macular Society has shown two thirds of NHS Trusts are failing to meet guidleines on first appointments or vital follow up intervals.
Helen Jackman, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “It is unacceptable that the Maelor hospital is failing Mrs Smith and other patients in this way.
“Many local people will have inevitably experienced unnecessary and irreversible sight loss due to the delays.
“There needs to be an urgent review of the service to avoid any more patients losing their sight.”
A Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board spokesman said: “We are very sorry the patient you refer to had to wait so long to be seen.
“We know how important it is for patients suspected of having wet age macular degeneration to be seen promptly and have put in place improvements to manage and reduce waiting times at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
“We did have a backlog of patients referred to the service at Wrexham so we put on additional clinical sessions and updated how patients are assessed. We also brought some appointments forward.
“The current North Wales waiting times for first Intravitreal injection is three to four weeks. However, we acknowledge there is still more work to be done to further reduce the waiting times and we are committed to achieving the improvements necessary.”