WAITING times for diagnosing and treating eye conditions are "spiralling" in Fife, according to Scottish sight loss charities.

Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans have called on the Scottish Government to tackle the problem after it was revealed that more than 53 per cent of new ophthalmology outpatients are facing 16-week delays for appointments.

The figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) showed than of 2111 people seen, 1109 waited more than 16 weeks, while 1151 had to wait more than 12 weeks.

Craig Spalding, Chief Executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, said: "We are calling on the Scottish Government to put a plan in place to tackle the spiralling ophthalmology waiting lists.

"These new figures show that thousands of patients with eye conditions are now waiting over 16 weeks.

"We are greatly concerned about the impact this is having mentally on people with visual impairment and the worsening of existing conditions which will occur if treatment is not received."

Fresh data is released by PHS every three months and latest figures show waiting times between October 1 and December 31 last year.

"We know the NHS is under a lot of pressure, but treatment within appropriate time scales is essential for many eye conditions," Mr Spalding commented.

"Our Community and Wellbeing staff have reported many instances where our service users have told them that their sight has worsened due to the delays, with some saying it’s like their life has been placed on hold due to having to give up work.

"People with deteriorating eye conditions just don’t have the time to wait, if ophthalmology waiting times are not improved, they face the very real prospect of permanent damage.

"We welcome any movement from the Scottish Government towards tackling this."

A spokesperson for Holyrood said that work with NHS Boards to maximise capacity and reduce the length of time people are waiting for appointments and treatments is continuing.

They added: "The NHS recovery plan, which is backed by more than £1 billion of additional investment, sets out how we will increase NHS capacity as quickly as possible.

"Four National Treatment Centres will open this year providing significant additional protected capacity for orthopaedic, ophthalmic and diagnostic capacity."

Claire Dobson, Director of Acute Services at NHS Fife, explained that the last quarter of 2022 had been challenging for the health board.

She said: "As is well-documented, waiting times across almost all specialities lengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are committed, however, to minimising waits and in many areas, including ophthalmology, we are making headway.

"The last quarter of 2022 was incredibly challenging, with COVID, Flu and other winter viruses putting unprecedented levels of pressure on healthcare services.

"These pressures impacted all healthcare services, and despite this we saw the highest number of ophthalmology outpatients than in any quarter since 2019."

Ms Dobson continued: "We are fortunate here in Fife to have one of the most innovative and forward-thinking ophthalmology teams in the country.

"While it is true that we still have more patients waiting longer than we would like, we are working to maximise capacity as much as possible in order that we can reduce the number of patients waiting in excess of 12 weeks to be seen.”