Around 50% of Primary Care Trusts across England have restricted access to cataract surgery, with the majority of these failing to use adequate clinical evidence in doing so, NHS medical director, Bruce Keogh, has told MPs.
Speaking to a hearing of the public accounts committee last week (January 14), Sir Keogh acknowledged that: “We know that about 50% of PCTs have restricted access to cataract surgery, and we know that the bulk of policies used by PCTs have not used the best evidence to ration that care.”
Continuing, he confirmed he has raised the issue with strategic health authority medical directors, as well as medical directors on the new Commissioning Board. “I have asked for cataracts to be one area that the programme of value-based surgical commissioning works on,” he said.
Welcoming the Committee’s focus on cataract surgery, president of the College of Optometrists, Dr Kamlesh Chauhan (pictured), highlighted the importance of overturning unfair cataract rationing policies immediately.
“Cataract surgery is a highly effective procedure that restores people’s vision with tremendous benefits for their quality of life,” he said. “Sir Bruce’s admission that people across the country are being denied this life changing treatment on inappropriate grounds is deeply worrying and must be tackled immediately. Cataract pathways begin with optometrists so the College would be very happy to work with the NHS Commissioning Board and our partners in the vision sector to find a solution.”
Sir Keogh added: “If we can get this right, and if we can get surgeons and the commissioners into the same place for the thresholds of referral, I think we will not only improve the quality of care, but save a considerable amount of money.”