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NHS trusts restricting eye surgery

Published on 25 May 2012 11:30 AM

An increasing amount of NHS trusts are restricting the ability for people to have eye surgery, information from a charity suggests.

According to a report by The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), more than 50% of the 152 NHS Trusts in England have in place their own restrictions on cataract surgery that are stronger than national standards.

The RNIB says that as a result many people with sight issues are being forced to wait while their condition gets worse before receiving medical assistance.

Health minister Simon Burns described this situation as 'unacceptable'.

Cataracts are misty areas on the eye lens that can result in sight difficulties and stop people reading or driving. It affects around 33% of people above the age of 65, but can be operated on by putting in an artificial lens after removing the misty lens.

The RNIB says that it questioned all 152 primary care trusts (PCTs) to find out if they were imposing their own criteria on people's eligibility for these operations that went further than the national criteria. A total of 151 replied to freedom of information requests.

The national criteria says that a person with cataracts is eligible for treatment if their condition is an adverse affect on their quality of life, but 57% of PCTs said they had put in place their own policy on cataract operations, which the RNIB said were often 'very restrictive'.

RNIB's health campaigns manager, Clara Eaglen, 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.'

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK commented: 'The RNIB are right to point out that restrictions on the availability of cataract surgery by Primary Care Trusts will almost always only delay the need for surgery.

'In the meantime, older people are having to live with avoidable restricted sight, potentially limiting their daily activities and putting them at greater risk of falls or becoming isolated. Both of these risks not only have the potential for a devastating impact in the lives of older people but also carry their own costs to the NHS.'

Copyright Press Association 2012

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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