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Ophthalmologist Shortage, Increasing Demands and the Impact of Covid-19

In 2018 there were approximately 1500 ophthalmology consultants in the UK¹. There was an anticipated shortage of 230 consultants by 2020¹. The annual training output of 74 consultants was considered to be “nowhere near”¹ sufficient as a quarter of existing consultants approach retirement¹.

As the ranks of clinicians dwindles, ophthalmology referrals have increased by 12% over the four years leading up to 2018². By the end of 2019 only 83% of ophthalmology patients were starting treatment within the 18 week target³; 445,000 were waiting for their ophthalmic treatment³.

Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic; all non urgent elective operations were cancelled in the NHS on April 15 for a minimum of three months⁴. In this time 100,000 cataract operations would ordinarily be completed⁵. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has swollen existing waiting lists. It will also stifle attempts to reduce them. New precautions will cause slower workflows and reduced capacity⁶. It may be difficult for the NHS to…