Eye surgeons unite to condemn rationing of cataract operations by half of NHS trusts
23:01 GMT, 12 August 2012
Eye surgeons are warning that the rationing of cataract operations by more than half of NHS trusts is putting thousands of patients at risk.
Elderly victims of the cutbacks are being left unable to read, write or drive as they wait longer for surgery.
In an unprecedented move, bodies representing eye specialists have attacked the ‘unfair restrictions’ as ‘clinically unsound’ and dangerous for patients.
Patients are being denied surgery unless their ability to read the optometrists test chart falls below a certain level
A joint statement from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the College of Optometrists and the Optical Confederation calls for primary care trusts (PCTs) to abandon caps on operations that mean patients have to wait longer.
They say that, in some cases, patients with cataracts in both eyes are being told their PCT will treat only one, leaving people unable to judge distances and more likely to have accidents.
Cataracts are cloudy patches on the lens of the eye, which often develop in old age.
Royal college president Professor Harminder Dua said he was deeply concerned about the rationing
The surgery, which is necessary to prevent blindness, replaces the cloudy lens in the eye with an implant that lets the patient see clearly.
Royal college president Professor Harminder Dua said he was deeply concerned by reports that half of PCTs are rationing operations by increasing the threshold for vision loss.
Patients are being denied surgery unless their ability to read the optometrist’s test chart falls below a certain level, known as visual acuity criteria.
Professor Dua said: ‘Patients should be offered treatment if a cataract is adversely affecting their daily living, they fully understand the risks and benefits of surgery and they want to have, and are fit enough, for surgery.’
Elizabeth Wade, of the PCT Network, which represents most Primary Care Trusts in England, said: ‘The overriding principle for determining any access to treatment should be clinical need.
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‘However, we must remember that the NHS is facing an unprecedented financial challenge and commissioners must live within their means while providing high quality care.’
Department of Health guidance does not set out thresholds for when an operation is necessary.
A spokesman said: ‘The NHS must not restrict access to treatment on cost grounds alone.’