New collaborative ophthalmology project announced

Media release

14 December 2018

The Ministry of Health is today announcing a new year-long project aimed at reducing waiting times and improving care for people with eye conditions.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Simpson says the Ministry, in partnership with the Ophthalmology Service Improvement Expert Advisory Group, will run workshops and give extra support to District Health Boards to help them offer the best eye care possible in a timely way.

Dr Simpson says, “It’s great to hear that this initiative has the support of DHBs and eye health clinicians around New Zealand."

This Ophthalmology Quality Improvement Collaborative will encourage DHBs to share successful ways of improving ophthalmology services and implementing recently released guidelines for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma referrals.

The guidelines, launched this year in May and September respectively by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), represent best practice for community management, referral and treatment of people with these two conditions, which have the highest demands for care and the greatest risk of causing blindness. 

The Ministry wishes to thank staff at ophthalmology services nationwide for their hard work and commitment in reducing waiting times and improving eye services since this issue was revealed in 2016. They’ve implemented a range of changes, such as increasingly using specially-trained nurses under guidance of ophthalmologists to treat people.

Nationally, the number of people waiting 50 per cent longer than their intended time for follow-up eye appointments has reduced from more than 10,000 people in May 2017 to less than 2400 in September 2018. This is a vast improvement, but we need to do even better.

The Ministry sees the new project as helping DHBs to make further improvements so that people with these two eye conditions receive timely, effective, safe and efficient care that they deserve and need.

“Our population is ageing and more people are developing chronic eye conditions, which will continue to put pressure on our ophthalmology services so it is imperative that we support DHBs to make changes now so that services are sustainable into the future,” Dr Simpson says.

For more information contact Peter Abernethy 021 366 111.