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In shocking figures presented by the Medical Technology Group (MTG), it has been discovered that out of the 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across England, 104 (53%) restrict access to cataract surgery. These CCGs include cataract surgery on their list of procedures of ‘Limited Clinical Value’ and many patients are being forced to wait months for surgery.
This counters guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published in 2017, which asserts that cataract surgery has ‘a high success rate in improving visual function, with low morbidity and mortality’.
We have also illustrated in previous blogs the various positive effects of cataract surgery including mental health benefits, quality of life benefits and a reduction in falls and fractures.
Helen Lee, Eye Health Policy Manager, RNIB states: “Cataract removal is a crucial procedure that has a huge impact on the lives of patients and their families. We know that restrictions or delays to cataract surgery can severely impact people’s ability to lead independent lives, making them twice as likely to experience falls and significantly reducing quality of life. It’s shocking that access to this life-changing surgery is being unnecessarily restricted by so many CCGs. We firmly believe that all patients who will benefit from cataract removal should be entitled to it and we urge CCGs to ensure the NICE guidance is fully implemented. Eye health services should be prioritised, so patients get timely access to treatment, rather than waiting months – or even years – for sight-saving surgery.”
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists states that it is important that patients regain as much vision as possible and are able to use both eyes together, the college also echoes NICE messaging: “The NICE guidelines also demonstrate the cost effectiveness of cataract surgery through scientific and financial modelling, meaning that any arbitrary use of visual thresholds for referral or surgery which restricts access, creates inequitable care and is not justified. Cataract surgery is the most common operation, with over 400,000 performed per year in the UK and has immediate benefit for patients and their quality of life.”
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