The director of a Leamington clinic has criticised the NHS’s record on cataract operations after a report found UK patients were much less likely to have vital surgery than those in most other Western countries.
Rob Morgan, a director of Space Healthcare, said the report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked Britain 22nd out of 30 countries for cataract operations, with the NHS performing fewer per head than Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Portugal.
“The statistics are appalling,” said Mr Morgan, who added that investigations by one national newspaper revealed that three in four hospitals were rationing cataract operations. One NHS trust is reported as having suspended cataract operations for four months to save money.
He said that cataracts affected a third of people over 65, significantly limiting their ability to lead normal lives, work or drive at night.
“Cataracts are a major problem affecting an ever larger number of people now that we are living longer. It is a very common eye condition that occurs when the natural lens becomes cloudy. Most people over the age of 60 will have this to some degree, although it’s not uncommon among people under that age. Left untreated, cataracts may eventually cause blindness but they can be effectively corrected with surgery.
“With NHS waiting lists as they are, an increasing number of people are opting to go privately, spending on average £3,000 to regain their full sight,” he said.
Space’s consultant ophthalmologist Mark Wevill, who has carried out more than 20,000 laser eye operations and cataract lens replacements, said: “Despite the patient having being diagnosed with a cataract by their GP or optician – who consider an operation necessary – their condition is not considered to be severe enough by the NHS and they have to wait for it to deteriorate further. It is very frustrating to be told to ‘come back next year’ when the cataract is causing significant problems and affecting their work, their ability to drive or their enjoyment of leisure activities. If your job depends on it then you want help as soon as possible” he said.
Leamington businessman Nigel Robinson, who had his cataract lens replacement implanted by Mr Wevill, said: “I was told by the NHS to ‘come back in 12 months’, even though my sight was very impaired and it was dangerous for me to drive at night. It got to the stage when it was affecting my work and my social life and I just couldn’t wait any longer.”