COVID-19 disrupted so much of our lives, now a report shows that 123,700 people missed their eye test in 2020.

As the nation battled the COVID-19 pandemic, understandably all health services were redirected to care for critically ill patients. On top of this, community optometrists, like us, initially had to severely restrict services, causing a reduction in referrals to hospital. Almost all routine testing in hospital eye services stopped as they dealt with emergency and urgent cases only.

There is now a significant backlog of people who did not attend eye appointments because they were cancelled or because they were reluctant to attend.

​To help us understand the impact of the pandemic has had on eyecare, we joined forces with the charity Fighting Blindness to produce The State of Ireland’s Eye Health Report 2021. Click here to find out more about the Fighting Blindness charity.

The report makes for a stark, but at times heart-warming read, as we understand the scale of the challenge to eye health, but also the tremendous spirit of teamwork as everyone worked together to take urgent action to care for patients.

The key statistics make worrying reading when it comes to missed appointments and the impact this has had on our vision:

  • There was a 123,700 drop in the number of eye tests delivered in 2020, a 19% decline compared to tests administered in 2019.
  • 47,000 people missed out on diabetic retinopathy screening in 2020, compared to 2019.
  • The waiting list for ophthalmology outpatient and inpatient appointments stands at 49,000 as of August 2021.
  • In 2020, before the pandemic, the annual economic cost of sight-loss and blindness in Ireland was estimated at €2.67bn. The additional backlog of eyecare services will only add to the cost.

Working together on a nationwide emergency

The pandemic has worsened the pre-existing delays to eyecare which means there are now even more patients waiting to be seen. This represents the tip of the iceberg as many of those who missed appointments, or had treatment delayed, will have more serious or advanced vision problems by the time they see a professional. This will have a huge impact on the health service and economy. Key groups from across the Ireland now need to work together to reduce waiting times and develop plans to tackle these problems.

If you have noticed a change in your eyesight or eye health since the beginning of the pandemic, book an appointment today.

If you would like to read the full report on the state of Ireland's eye health you can do so here.