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Health minister highlights importance of good eye healthcare

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey today highlighted the importance of early diagnosis and treatment for people with serious eye conditions.

The Minister was speaking on World Sight Day after a visit to the Eye Clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Minister McGimpsey said: “Eye healthcare is extremely important to everyone. We are fortunate in this country to have a health service which provides ready access to sight tests and treatment. I would encourage people to have regular sight tests which can help to detect sight-threatening diseases at an early stage and potentially prevent unnecessary sight loss or minimise its impact.”

During his tour of the ophthalmology department at the Royal, the Minister met with staff and patients and heard about the role of the RNIB eye clinic liaison officer, who provides emotional and practical support to people newly diagnosed with conditions which result in blindness or serious visual impairment.

The Minister continued: “Being told that your eye condition will result in blindness or partial blindness is devastating news. People may find themselves unable to continue in employment and often face huge changes to almost every aspect of their day to day life.

“Immediate access to emotional support and advice on the services available to help people cope with the impact of visual impairment can help prevent isolation and depression. It also helps people become more confident that they can continue to lead active lives and live independently.

“Work by RNIB staff in this area is also an excellent example of how skills and experience in the voluntary sector can work in partnership with the health service to improve the quality of services received by patients.

“Ophthalmology is clearly a very busy specialty and I welcome the opportunity to witness the superb work being carried out by all the staff here. My Department is presently working with ophthalmologists, optometrists and other ophthalmic practitioners to develop a new strategy for Eyecare Services in Northern Ireland to tackle serious eye conditions.”

Notes for editors:

1. World Sight Day 2010 is on 14 October and is an annual day of awareness to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment.

2. The Eye Clinic based at the Royal Victoria Hospital has been the regional centre for ophthalmology in Northern Ireland since 1962 and has forged an international reputation as a centre of excellence in ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is the medical and surgical management of conditions of the eye.

3. The clinic provides a comprehensive range of services including: ophthalmology emergencies including injury, ophthalmology surgery and treatment for cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, Low Vision, corneal disease and transplantation; orthoptics and optometry.

4. Sight tests are an important way of identifying problems early on. They can be arranged by contacting your local high street optician. There is a charge for eye tests but certain people may be entitled to free or reduced charges.

5. The Eyecare Services strategy is currently under development and is expected to issue for public consultation in 2011.
6. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0579. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number on 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned