The first Island based clinic to treat the eye condition ‘Wet’ Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) took place today at Noble’s Hospital. It is the first step in moving the treatment for the majority of the Island’s ARMD patients from the UK to the Isle of Man, where clinically appropriate, over the coming months.
It follows a commitment by Howard Quayle MHK to investigate options for an on-Island service made when he was appointed as Minister for Health and Social Care last year. A project team was established shortly after, with its members exploring a full range of options to implement on-Island treatments in early 2015.
The service is operated by the Department’s existing partner, Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, with the clinicians now travelling to the Island rather than patients travelling to Liverpool. This means that patients will continue to receive treatment from a recognised and respected centre of excellence for ophthalmology as well as benefitting from the continuity of care under Aintree’s Ophthalmic Consultant Mr Ahmed Kamal.
‘Wet’ ARMD affects people in later life and is caused by the formation of abnormal tiny blood vessels under the part of the eye known as the macula. These blood vessels damage the cells within the macula, causing a loss of central vision. The condition is treated with periodic injections into the eye which can prevent the growth of the blood vessels. Only one eye can be treated at a time, meaning two separate treatments are required each time for patients with the condition in both eyes.
Until now this has meant the inconvenience of what can be an arduous and tiring journey to and from the UK, sometimes once or twice a month, for patients who are generally older and many of whom are frail. Eighty two per cent of ‘Wet’ ARMD patients require the support and care of an escort.
With the Island’s ageing population and ‘Wet’ ARMD being a condition occurring in later life, the number of people diagnosed has been increasing year on year with the trend expected to continue.
Minister for Health and Social Care, Howard Quayle MHK, said:
'I made it clear when I became Minister that securing on-Island treatment for those with a wet macular condition was my number one priority. It has been a team effort and I am delighted that the Department has been able to deliver on this commitment.
'Change doesn’t happen overnight, but I hope this demonstrates to the public that we are listening to them and are serious about making the necessary improvements to care. I want the public to see that action is being taken, that we are delivering on our promises and that we can be trusted to continue the work of reforming health and social care services.
'Given the age of many patients with ARMD, some understandably struggle with journeys to and from the UK. For what can be relatively short appointments, patients can find themselves enduring 14 hour days with a 5am start. Clearly this is less than ideal and I am sure patients, carers and the third sector groups who have championed an on-Island service will welcome this move.'
Cost neutral service
Treatment takes place in a new state of the art clinic at Noble’s Hospital developed especially for this service to meet strict standards for ventilation and infection control. The clinic space sits alongside the existing Eye Clinic and this will ensure that future services can be developed from a single location.
Although there have been one-off costs to establish the facilities and purchase the necessary equipment, it is expected that the on-Island service will be cost neutral, with funds redirected from the savings made in the patient transfers budget. The cost of transporting patients has been increasing markedly as the number of people with ‘Wet’ ARMD continues to grow, a trend that would have continued without on-Island treatment. This can now be avoided. In addition the Department can explore the possibility of training and upskilling local staff to develop a ‘Wet’ ARMD service delivered by clinicians based at Noble’s Hospital, in the future.