HIGH risk eye patients in Wales should experience fewer delays for assessments and treatments under a new measure introduced this month.

Health boards' eye services must now have arrangements in place to make sure patients are assessed and/or treated by the most suitable person within a clinically appropriate time.

The measure - introduced by health minister Vaughan Gething following a review - is based on the priority and urgency of care required by each patient.

Priority is defined as the risk of harm linked to the patient’s eye condition if the target appointment date is missed.

Urgency is defined as how soon that patient should be seen given the current situation with their eye condition, and/or the risk of progression of the condition.

Wales is the first part of the UK to introduce a measure of this kind for eye care patients.

Previously, NHS targets for eye care services have supported new patients, but this is often only the first part of a patient's journey, as regular reviews or treatment may be needed to make sure a their sight improves, and to reduce the risk of avoidable blindness by detecting deterioration.

Consultant ophthalmologists,and RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People have raised concerns about the potential for lasting damage due to delays for patients with conditions such as wet AMD (wet age-related macular degeneration) and glaucoma. and this led to Mr Gething commissioning an NHS-led group to review the problems facing patients on waiting lists, particularly those in need of ongoing treatment.

The new measure to ensure new and existing patients are seen or treated within an agreed timeframe, based on their clinical condition, came about from the review's recommendations.

Almost 111,000 people in Wales are living with sight loss, a figure it is estimated will rise by a third by 2030, and double by 2050.