East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has lent his support to the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) and other groups involved in lobbying for improved care for those people suffering from sight problems.
The DUP representtaive, who met with campaigners recently, said: “In East Antrim, over 3000 people have serious sight problems and across NI this rises to 60,000.
“By 2050 these figures are set to double and the cost to the UK economy runs at £22bn per year at present. Ironically, with timely intervention many people could have had their sight saved reducing the cost to the state and more importantly saving people from the trauma of losing the most vital faculty they have.
“Currently in NI 12,000 patients have to wait at least 18 weeks to have their first examination by a consultant. I have had constituents who have then waited for over a year to receive treatment some of them have been told that their eyesight will be lost before they can be seen.
“This state of affairs is unacceptable and the Health Minister is right to divert money to reducing waiting lists rather than raise pay. It is an unpopular choice with the unions but essential in improving life chances for tens of thousands.”
Mr Wilson added, however: “There is more to be done. Better use of the range of medical resources available and encouraging people to take regular eye checks. More timely access to treatments for the main eye conditions.
“An amazing 50 per cent of sight loss is avoidable if detected and treated early. More support for those diagnosed with sight threatening conditions and rapid access to rehabilitation.
“Lastly,” he added, “improved access to transport and the built environment would enable many people who have lost their sight to live full lives. Smart technology opens up huge potential for improved public transport. “
“Solutions are available; some will cost money others simply require reform of existing procedures and services but they make economic sense and they will vastly improve the quality of life for thousands in East Antrim and tens of thousands across NI.”