A survey has revealed that a growing number of NHS Trusts are placing restrictions on access to cataract surgery in England.
Cataracts are cloudy patches in the lens that can make vision blurred or misty, stopping people from being able to read or drive. In the UK, more than half of people who are over 65 have some cataract development in one or both eyes.
Cataracts can be treated by cataract surgery, which involves replacing the damaged lens with an artificial implant. 350,000 of these operations are carried out on the NHS each year.
The national policy states that if cataracts are hampering quality of life, an individual should be offered treatment.
However, the Royal National Institute of Blind People asked 152 primary care trusts (PCTs) if they had introduced their own criteria in eye tests beyond the national policy.
Out of the 151 trusts that relied, 57% confirmed that they had set their own more restrictive criteria on the procedure. This figure is higher than last year’s data.
The RNIB said that this meant patients were left to wait until their sight problems deteriorated before getting help.
Clara Eaglen, RNIB's health campaigns manager, said: "People should not have to live with a reduced quality of life simply because trusts are using arbitrary criteria to determine whether they get to keep their sight.”
Spire Healthcare recently said that the NHS budget cuts and rising waiting lists mean that people are increasingly paying to go private for procedures like cataract removals and hernia repairs.
Patients without health insurance will have to meet the costs of private treatment themselves. At Spire Healthcare, the cost for cataract removal in one eye can be up to £3,123. To be covered on your private medical insurance, look for a policy with dental and optical cover.
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