A new eye clinic at Moray’s biggest hospital has saved patients from travelling to Aberdeen for nearly 3,000 appointments.
NHS Grampian was previously forced to send patients outside the region for treatment while enlisting outside support to cope with demand amid recruitment issues spanning several years.
However, a new medical retina service was launched at Dr Gray’s Hospital in 2018 and has already treated nearly 400 separate patients.
Now it has been revealed that staff meeting locals at the Elgin unit has saved patients from travelling to Aberdeen for 2,853 appointments – covering the equivalent distance of travelling to the moon.
The eye injection dates have been provided to residents living in Moray as well as the western parts of Aberdeenshire.
Consultant ophthalmologist Andreea Ionean said: “Prior to introducing the service at Dr Gray’s the average return distance from home to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for these patients would have been 120 miles.
“Since its launch the average travel distance for a return journey for these patients was just 23 miles.
“For these 2,853 appointments then, the total travelling distance from home would have been 62,882 miles instead of 350,421 miles for their round trip.
“As well as being a great boost to patients there are the obvious environmental benefits too.”
The vast majority of patients who have been treated by the service in Elgin have been those with age-related macular degeneration, which can make reading and recognising faces difficult.
Those suffering from the eyesight problems are usually over 50 years old but some can be considerably older.
The exact cause of the condition is unknown but it has been linked to smoking, being overweight and high blood pressure.
Dr Ionean added: “It is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK and affects the central vision. It’s progressive and patients require regular check-ups and injections.
“The introduction of the service saw nurses and advanced nurse practitioners up-skilling considerably to provide the appropriate care and they have done a wonderful job.
“This is of significant benefit to local patients, some of whom were travelling to Aberdeen every four weeks.
“We’re now running four sessions a week, seeing 50 patients in total, and that has grown since it was launched.
“It doesn’t mean this patient group never have to go for appointments at ARI, but it does considerably reduce the need to travel and the feedback from patients has been very positive.”