Medical ophthalmology

Medical ophthalmology

The CfWI was commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) and the Department of Health (DH) to undertake a stocktake of the medical ophthalmology (MO) workforce in England. This provide an assessment of what future medical ophthalmology consultant numbers might be needed in the context of developing medical ophthalmological services based on estimates of population need and likely healthcare commissioning.

Our findings from the stocktake include:

  • There has been a year-on-year increase in MO activity, mainly due to growing incidences of macular degeneration and diabetic retinal disease. Factors influencing this include the rising prevalence of diabetes and an increasingly ageing population.
  • The requirement for trained specialists in MO to provide adequate hyper-specialist / complex ophthalmic (tertiary-level) services is also increasing.
  • Medical ophthalmologists have the training and skills to deliver this increased requirement in the most efficient manner.
  • The current ophthalmic services workforce can be shaped to meet this growing requirement by increasing the number of medical ophthalmic personnel to meet estimates of future demand as the service is presently configured. This can be met by increasing MO trainee numbers and training programmes.

To reflect these, we have made the following recommendations:

  • The CfWI recommends staged increases in the MO workforce supply through additional specialty training places to provide adequate hyper-specialist MO services in England. The CfWI recommends reviews in between the various stages to ensure this overall objective is being met.

These increases are intended to serve the population across England as a whole, so the geographic distribution of new consultant posts is an important consideration. The CfWI proposes that at least a proportion of the training is undertaken in surgical ophthalmology units close too but not coterminous with MO units so that the geographic centres for training spread beyond the existing MO service provision distribution.