Patients face red light for eye surgery

Reporter: Andrew Rudkin
Date published: 05 July 2011

EYE experts claim Oldham cataract sufferers will struggle to receive surgery.

Research from the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists brands NHS Oldham has having a “red policy” on the procedure.

This status means the primary care trust is restricting access and implementing thresholds for surgery.

But the trust says it is offering guidance to patients and looks at cases on an individual basis.

Barbara McLaughlan, of the RNIB, said the findings are “alarming”.

She said: “Most of the trusts in the North-West are green and manage without any thresholds, so why can’t Oldham?

“These are one-off operations, done quickly and once they are completed will last for a lifetime.”

The Chronicle revealed earlier this year the local NHS was restricting operations like cataract removals and hip replacements in order to save money up until the end of the previous financial year.

NHS Oldham claims “hard evidence” shows these operations to have limited clinical value for patients and alternatives should be tried before surgery.

The restrictions were lifted three months ago, meaning that people affected last year whose symptoms persisted, or who tried other options besides surgery and still wanted an operation, have been able to have the procedures.

NHS Oldham board member and local GP, Dr Hugh Sturgess, revealed local optometrists and ophthalmic surgeons have been looking at solutions.

He said: “We’ve drawn up guidance aimed at helping clinicians make appropriate and consistent decisions when we’re discussing with patients whether they should have an operation or not.

“Though this guidance is in place it’s important to remember that there will always be times when a patient and their doctor think the operation may have overwhelming health benefits for them as an individual, even if they do not meet the guidance.

“We will always look at these cases on an individual basis.”

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams revealed a number of her constituents are asking for help because they cannot get their cataracts treated in a reasonable time.

She said: “Along with Michael Meacher and other Greater Manchester MPs, I am already asking NHS Oldham for clear answers about why this, and other, basic operations are being hit so hard by this Government’s ideologically-driven cuts.”

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