Longer waits for cataract treatment

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patients are facing longer waits for NHS treatment for cataracts, it was claimed yesterday.

A fifth of GP practices have been affected by changes in criteria used to refer cataracts patients, with the average patient waiting an additional 15 weeks for NHS treatment, according to a new report.

Despite 85 per cent of GPs surveyed believing that postponing treatment has a detrimental effect on patients’ quality of life, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of practices admitted that their patients will now have to wait for their eyesight to deteriorate even further before they can be referred to the NHS.

In most cases, patients who previously had 20:20 vision will not be eligible for treatment until their vision has regressed to the minimum driving standard, the report said.

The most inconvenient factor is that the criteria must be reached for each eye, leaving many patients with only one eye treated for months while having to go through the referral process twice, it added.

For one in 10 practices, the time between diagnosing and referring patients is thought to have risen by an additional 15 weeks, with some GPs recording delays of up to 24 weeks for their patients.

A further 12 per cent said they would be referring fewer people for cataracts surgery altogether.

The findings were taken from a focus group of 100 GPs and a national poll of 1,000 British people conducted by Yorkshire-based vision correction specialist Ultralase.

The company will hold a clinic at the Audley Clevedon retirement village near Ilkley on Thursday offering free eye screenings and information on cataracts.

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