The Trust’s Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Clinic celebrated its five-year anniversary with patients, local Macular Society representatives and leaders from across ophthalmology, optometry and the health service at Amersham Hospital this month.
Over the last 5 years the team has conducted over 50,000 consultations with patients and delivered over 41,000 sight-saving injections.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common condition for people from their 50s and 60s, and it is the biggest cause of certified sight-loss in adults in the UK. Patients can suffer devastating loss of their central vision, making day to day activities and independent living difficult. The exact cause is unknown but likely due to many factors such as a family history of AMD, smoking, being overweight and high blood pressure.
Without treatment, vision worsens. This can happen gradually over several years with ‘dry’ AMD, or quickly over days, weeks or even overnight in the case of neovascular or ‘wet’ AMD. Patients with wet AMD require long-term regular consultations and treatment with injections in the eye at very precise intervals.
By setting up and delivering a service where these patients receive their treatment on time and in the most efficient and safe manner, the AMD clinic has ensured that patients in Buckinghamshire with wet AMD have the best chance of keeping their eyesight, maintaining independence and leading full lives.
The team was also able to adapt quickly to ensure that patients could continue to be treated safely throughout the pandemic at a time when many other teams were having to suspend services. They have also involved patients in research which has given them access to the latest treatments.
As well as the clinicians who see the patients, the service consists of highly trained specialist nurses, optometrists and a dedicated team of health care assistants, receptionists, admin support staff as well as a service coordinator and eye-clinic liaison officers (ECLO), who are all integral to running a busy, efficient service with a holistic approach. Patients are treated but also supported to live with their diagnosis and any vision any vision loss that may already have occurred.
The focus of the celebration was the ‘5-year AMD project’ and launch of a series of videos containing information and guidance to help AMD patients live better with their disease. The videos feature clinic staff and special guests and were created in response to patient feedback. They cover topics ranging from how to exercise and what to cook with a visual impairment, to driving with AMD and the detrimental effects of smoking on eye health.
Attendees at the event heard talks given by Principal and Research Optometrist Denise Voon, Consultant Ophthalmologist Mr Mandeep Bindra and Chief Executive Neil Macdonald. They were then invited to tour the facility, including the art area, clinical corridor and injection room. They were able to visit the ECLO, optometrists and clinicians to get their eyes scanned, learn more about the public health initiatives the clinic is involved with such as smoking cessation, and even sample food made using accessible recipes by local chef and vlogger Vanessa Tailor.
Consultant Ophthalmologist, Mandeep Bindra said: “When we set up and started the clinic 5 years ago, it revolutionised for us the way patients with AMD received treatment. We continue to improve and set the gold standard for NHS trusts to follow with the hard work and dedication of the whole of our AMD team. It really has been a team effort with many people to thank. Patients are key to helping us always improve what we do, and we continue to innovate and develop with patients at the centre of our service.”
Principal and Research Optometrist at the Trust Denise Voon said: “With people living longer lives and wanting to remain active, maintaining good eye health has become more and more important. We can treat AMD if we can diagnose it early so we are asking people: Don’t be blind to macular degeneration. Try to prevent it through good diet, quitting smoking and be aware of any family history and get your eyes checked regularly.
“But we also want to support people who are living with sight loss, giving them easy access to information in our videos and reassure them that there is so much they can still do and get involved in. There are accessible recipes out there for them to try, they can play tennis or paint. We are here to support them and their carers.”
CEO, Neil Macdonald who attended the event said: “Many congratulations to the team on their achievement. I know this has been a huge collective effort. This is a perfect example of what can be achieved through having a vision, putting clinicians in charge of improving services and bringing in management and financial planning support.”