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Woman pays £3,000 to stop herself going blind as NHS waiting lists soar

A woman paid £3,000 to save her sight after there was a three-week waiting list on the NHS.

She was warned that if she waited just one more week there was a 30 percent chance she would’ve gone blind.

Writing in The Independent, she said: “I frequently think about those other distressed souls that I shared the emergency waiting room with a few weekends ago. How many of them had savings to raid or a supportive family to offer help?

“I wonder which of them needed emergency treatment that day to save their sight and who was offered the appointment that I turned down. The one that quite possibly came too late.”

The massive backlog for NHS ophthalmology services – which accounts for almost 10 percent of the 7 million people on the NHS waiting list – has seen 81 percent of patients pay for healthcare, according to a survey by the Association of Optometrists (AOP).

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There are more than 640,000 people waiting for NHS ophthalmology appointments in England alone. This is an increase of 12,000 since March, with 20,000 waiting for more than a year.

Adam Sampson, chief executive of the AOP, said many people have been “forced to spend their savings on private treatment to avoid losing their sight”.

The AOP said waiting times could be significantly reduced if optometrists were funded to provide some NHS hospital services.

NHS England has previously said ophthalmology is the busiest outpatient speciality and vowed to give patients access to new diagnostic services to reduce waiting times before seeing a consultant.

In its survey of 1,000 optometrists, the AOP found 79 percent said patients had experienced delays of 12 months or more for hospital care, follow-up appointments or treatments. This was up from 72 percent in 2022.

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Of the 7.75 million people currently on the NHS waiting list, eight in ten were waiting for an outpatient appointment and the rest required an operation.

The most common procedures were cataract surgery (8 percent), colonoscopy (5 percent), removal of skin tissue (4 percent), knee (4 percent) and hip (3 percent) surgery.

In April, revealed that drivers in the UK could face massive fines for failing a roadside eyesight test, as well as potentially losing their licence.

Data from YouGov has revealed that 30 percent of Britons haven’t had an eye test within the last two years, despite NHS recommendations.

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