Cataract patients will have to wait a year during Covid to have NHS surgery


Cataracts – the world’s leading cause of blindness – see the small transparent disk develop cloudy patches that grow larger, causing blurred, foggy vision and eventually blindness

Some patients had to wait a year for cataract surgery
Some patients had to wait a year for cataract surgery

People with poor eyesight had to wait more than a year for NHS surgeries to remove cataracts, official figures show.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting more than half of Britons over the age of 65.

Charities warn that major delays could mean many older people lose their ability to live independently.

Patients in North Warwickshire waited an average of 377 days for the procedure in 2020/21, according to new data from NHS Digital for the last three years, released to the Mirror.

This is more than double the wait times at the Regional Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) with the longest average wait times in 2017-18, which was approximately four and a half months.

Preliminary data for 2021/22 shows at least four CCGs covering millions of patients with average wait times greater than six months.

Average overall wait times for cataracts have improved in the latest 2021/22 data


WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Cataracts are a later life hazard which, if left untreated, can make older people anxious, depressed, rob them of confidence and put them at increased risk of falls.

“In addition, they make it very difficult for older people to go out or read and generally disrupt normal life massively.

“These long wait times mean that many older people live with pain, discomfort and stress, not knowing when to get the help they need.

“We know the NHS is under a lot of pressure and is doing its best to catch up from the pandemic, but the truth is there is no immediate relief on sight for many older people, making this a really difficult time for them. “

Cataracts see the small transparent disk develop cloudy patches that grow larger, causing blurry, foggy vision and eventually blindness.

In young people, lenses are usually like clear glass that we can see through. As we age, they begin to tarnish like bathroom glass, limiting our vision.

Average wait times for cataracts overall improved in the latest 2021/22 data, but patients still had to wait over seven and a half months.

Patients in Leicester waited the longest last year, averaging 229 days.

His CCG was followed by Somerset at 224 days, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin at 222 days, West Suffolk at 219 days and Stoke-on-Trent at 161 days.

Louise Gow, eye director at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: “We are concerned by data showing patients in some trusts are now waiting longer for ophthalmic procedures than two years ago at the height of the pandemic.

“Although we understand that ophthalmologists have worked extremely hard to ensure patients are treated as quickly as possible, for patients and their families. Being on a waiting list for a long time brings with it fear and uncertainty.

“Although those facing cataract surgery are not at risk of permanent vision loss, they lose an improved quality of life, greater independence and have an increased risk of falls due to poor eyesight, and people also share with us the throbbing that can affect their mental health.” affect well-being.”

Preliminary data for the latest financial year 2021/22, which did not include all CCGs, indicated overall improved average cataract surgery wait times in the NHS.

The average wait time for the procedure was just over two and a half months – or 79 days – compared to 115 days in 2020/21.

After the year-long cataract waits, Coventry and Warwickshire CCG was formed in April 2021 from Warwickshire North and two neighboring CCGs.

A spokesman for Coventry and Warwickshire CCG said: “The pandemic has meant we have unfortunately had to halt many non-emergency operations while we respond to the immediate challenges of Covid-19.

“Reestablishing our services is a priority for us, and average cataract surgery wait times have now decreased significantly in our area.”

A Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland (LLR) public health spokesman said: “The response to Covid has meant some surgeries have been postponed during the pandemic.

“We know that waiting for treatment is frustrating for patients and understand the impact this is having on them. We are now fully focused on reducing wait times as local services return to pre-pandemic levels.

“To improve the situation, we are also increasing the availability of cataract treatment by other providers.”

The RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service on 0303 123 9999 can provide support and practical advice on how to deal with impaired vision.

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