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Eye disease treatment moves on-island

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Tuesday 01 April 2014

A service to detect and treat certain eye diseases will begin in Guernsey this month.

Until now, patients with Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) have had to travel regularly to Southampton for their treatment. It is estimated that 100 existing patients and around 25-30 new patients each year will benefit from the availability of this new local service. An estimated annual joint saving between HSSD and SSD of £50,000 to £60,000 is anticipated.

The provision of the treatment comes about through arrangements between the HSSD, Social Security and the Medical Specialist Group.

In addition to making it much easier for patients, bringing the service on-Island has also allowed two other conditions to be treated. These are Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO) and Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO). Very few patients will now need to go off-island for assessment or treatment for these conditions.

While the cost of travel to the UK for treatment for these three conditions has been met by the States until now, only the treatment cost for ARMD has been covered by the States. In the future RVO and DMO patients will no longer have to pay for their own treatment.

HSSD has had to buy Optical Coherence Tomography* equipment for the local service. The cost of this investment will be in the range of £120,000 to £130,000.

The new service will be delivered at the MSG's Mill House building at Les Frieteaux, St Martin's. Consultant Ophthalmologist Suzie Dorey is delighted to see the on-island service come to fruition.

"Around 25-30 new patients are diagnosed with ARMD each year. Bringing their treatment on-Island will make it far more accessible and convenient for people. We anticipate that treatment in Guernsey will also increase demand amongst people who would not otherwise have sought to remedy their symptoms due to the travel involved. This will improve their quality of life too." said Miss Dorey.

Deputy Allister Langlois, Social Security Minister explained the financial arrangements:

"In addition to being much better for patients, this does save money across the States. HSSD has had to purchase the OCT machine and SSD will be paying the MSG for additional Consultant time. But SSD also get a saving from the reduction in travel grants to Southampton. Overall the States should save more than £50,000 per year."

HSSD Minister, Deputy Mark Dorey added:

"We have had a very good working relationship with Southampton and we are grateful for their help in now transferring this service to Guernsey. We are very pleased for this group of patients who will benefit from the increased convenience and familiarity of MSG's facilities. This will also help families and friends who have previously accompanied travelling patients on a regular basis.

Taking on this service has been a complex area of work which has had a changing evidence base. For this reason I am especially delighted that many years of joint effort have been successful in realising the opportunity to extend our service, improve convenience and reduce the cost.

Letters are already on the way to existing patients and we expect the first on-Island appointments to be taking place by mid-April."

A specialist ophthalmologist, Mr Michael Blundell, has been appointed and will take up the role on 1st August; until his arrival, the services of an experienced locum ophthalmologist have been secured for the next few months.

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