Cataracts sufferers forced to wait longer for treatment

Hundreds of thousands of people with cataracts will have to wait longer for treatment due to cost-cutting changes by health authorities, a survey indicates.

A poll of GPs has found more than a quarter of them (27 per cent) said recent changes to qualifying criteria by primary care trusts meant patients would have to wait for their eyesight to deteriorate further before getting surgery on the NHS.

Some 720,000 people are diagnosed with cataracts each month, which leave sufferers with blurred vision.

But the eye treatment company Ultralase, which commissioned a survey of 100 GPs and over 1,000 members of the public, has calculated that the changes will result in 200,000 waiting longer.

On average they will have to wait another 15 weeks for treatment due to recent changes, the company found.

It found that in most cases patients’ eyes must now have deteriorated to the point where they would only just pass the eyesight element of a driving test.

More and more health authorities are now insisting on treating each eye separately, meaning patients often having to go through the system twice in a matter of months.

Dr. Chris Steele, of National Cataracts Awareness Week, said: “A cataract is a very serious condition that will affect all of us as we get older, so it’s concerning to see the referral process becoming even stricter in so many GP practices.

“It’s estimated that over half of those over 65 will have some level of cataract, in one or both eyes, and as the deterioration is so gradual it can be hard to gauge just how badly your vision has become.”