On 30 March 2020, Specsavers made the difficult decision to close its doors to routine eye care. Cognisant of the escalation and extension of important restrictions to flatten the curve of COVID-19, and wanting to ensure the safety of patients and staff as well as supporting the nation in time of crisis, Specsavers hibernated normal retail services and remained only open for urgent and essential care, creating a post-COVID-19 backlog of patients with diabetes.
In April 2019, Specsavers optometrists saw 13,319 patients with diabetes for their vital diabetes eye checks. Diabetes Australia had just launched its KeepSight initiative with Specsavers as a co-funder alongside the Federal Government, Novartis and Bayer. In subsequent months, Specsavers saw a steady increase of patients with diabetes. In line with the projected growth of diabetes eye checks, Specsavers expected to see an average of 22,654 patients with diabetes per month across 2020.
In February 2020, Specsavers cared for 21,197 patients with diabetes. Then in April 2020, only 1,386 patients with diabetes presented to Specsavers optometrists. Of those, only 670 patients were registered to KeepSight over the four-week period compared to 7,632 in February.
This trend was seen nationwide across all optometry professionals, as reflected in the use of Medicare item 10915, which was used 10.7% more year on year in February but then 9.2% less than 2019 in March and 75.6% less than 2019 in April. Simply comparing 10915 for 2019 vs 2020, shows that at least 2,190 patients with diabetes missed out on dilated eye examinations in March and 15,714 in April, indicating the backlog of patients with diabetes that are now in need of prioritised care.