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Freedom from cataracts

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Comment and opinion Posted: 2 Jul 2012 11:18 AM

Another week passes and it seems there is another Freedom of Information (FOI) request on NHS surgery numbers, this time with GP magazine highlighting, among other things, the limitations primary care trusts are placing on cataract surgery.

It revealed that 66 per cent of 151 PCTs in England were restricting access to surgery, which is even worse than the 57 per cent figure reported by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in a similar exercise earlier this month (News, June 1).

This time, the criticism of leaving the elderly with one eye treated, the other not, was raised in Prime Minister’s Questions and the rationing of surgery on financial grounds was deemed unacceptable all round.

In terms of a cost per benefit ratio, cataract surgery must be one of the most effective treatments available on the NHS. While the economy is under serious constraints, and we are reminded of that on an almost daily basis, it is inexcusable to have patients suffering vision loss and having a reduced quality of life for the sake of juggling funds.

The RNIB pointed out that this is not a new revelation, the situation had not improved since it carried out a similar FOI exercise in 2011. For healthcare rationing to continue without any attempt to address it would suggest we really have lost our way in what is tantamount to discrimination against the elderly.

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