Angela Burns AM met with the team behind the Royal National Institute for the Blind this afternoon at the National Assembly for Wales, before the visitors gathered in the public gallery to watch an RNIB-backed Welsh Conservative debate in the Chamber.
Mrs Burns led the debate today to call on the Welsh Government to do more to help those suffering from sight loss in Wales.
There are currently 111,000 people living with visual problems in Wales, and with reports of waiting times and procedure hold-ups threatening further avoidable sight deterioration, the opposition today called the Welsh Government to be robustly held to account for its failure to meet waiting time targets.
The number of people across Wales suffering from sight problems is increasing every year, and is predicted to increase by 32% by 2030 and then double by 2050. In light of these worrying figures, Mrs Burns today also asked Health Minister Vaughan Gething to ensure sufficient planning is put in place to guarantee capacity in eye clinics will meet the current and future needs of the people of Wales.
Mrs Burns was assisted in the run-up to this debate by RNIB Cymru, who delivered what the Shadow Minister described as an “illuminating and moving patient panel and tour of their Cardiff facilities” when she visited earlier this week.
The visit and debate were timed around recent eyecare statistics published by The Welsh Government which are set to paint an even worse picture when updated next Tuesday (9th July).
The Welsh Conservative debate received support from across the chamber in its pleas to the Minister for ‘greater urgency’ and a published timetable for a new eye care delivery plan. Mrs Burns also called on the Minister to improve the capture and analysis of complaints and serious incidents in order to learn from current problems.
The motion however was voted down by the Welsh Government.
Commenting, Mrs Burns said:
“We must come to terms with the prediction that in 30 years’ time, around 7% of the Welsh population will have sight loss. As we stand at the moment, we’re not coping with the people in need now, let alone thousands more.
“A healthier Wales is all about prevention. Sight loss causes loneliness, depression and all manners of mental health problems, so it must be treated with the utmost importance.
“The Minister has put in place a new set of performance measures but now is the time for him to be braver to accelerate improvements. People are suffering already from sight deterioration, and we have a duty not to put them at further risk of harm due to long delays and a lack of clear planning for the future.
“I urge Mr Gething to take notice of our debate, and of the brilliant work by the RNIB. I was delighted that representatives and beneficiaries from the charity were able to join us in Cardiff today to observe this debate.”