Published on 13/08/2012
An urgent warning statement has been issued from health bodies about the rationing of cataract operations in the NHS.
Cataracts are cloudy patches in the lens that can make vision blurred or misty. It is estimated that half of people over the age of 65 suffer from cataracts in one or both eyes. Cataract operations are generally very successful, with a low risk of serious complications.
However, earlier this year Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) showed that 57 per cent of England’s 152 NHS trusts are denying patients cataract operations unless they fail stringent eye tests.
This threshold means that people whose quality of life has been affected by the condition may not be eligible for the operation.
Now, an urgent warning statement has been issued jointly by the Royal College, the College of Optometrists, Optical Confederation and Local Optical Committee Support Unit. It states:
"We strongly advise that it is clinically unsound to determine access to cataract surgery on the basis of visual acuity alone."
"Patients should be offered treatment for cataract if: the 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."
“We urge commissioners, clinicians and patient groups to work together to implement this advice as a matter of urgency."
The Royal National Institute of Blind People undertook the same survey last year and found similar results, indicating that there has been no improvement in the situation.
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