Deep impact: the legacy of the pandemic for eye care

Lockdowns led to cancelled operations and check-ups. Becky McCall looks at the legacy of the pandemic for eye disease and sight loss, and the lessons that have been learned.

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With fear of COVID-19 infection rife, many patients have avoided, or been unable to attend, consultations with optometrists and hospital ophthalmologists over the past 17 months. This has raised serious concerns about long-term damage to eye health and sight loss, as monitoring of and referrals for sight-saving procedures are missed.   

There were 5.9 million fewer new referral-to-treatment pathways in 2020 compared with 2019, a fall of 30%, and ophthalmology – alongside trauma and orthopaedics – suffered most disruption (NHS Confederation, 2021). To make matters worse, many of the patients that fall within these specialities have conditions that could deteriorate further if left untreated.  

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