South Essex patients lose out in eye operation lottery

Echo: South Essex patients lose out in eye operation lottery South Essex patients lose out in eye operation lottery

A CHARITY has exposed a postcode lottery for cataract surgery in Essex, which means operations are being rationed for some.

Royal National Institute of Blind People research shows in south Essex, patients need to meet stricter criteria to get an op than those in the north of the county.

Cataract surgery is the third most common procedure carried out by the NHS.

The split means patients looked after by the new clinical commissioning groups which took over from primary care trusts in Basildon and Brentwood, Castle Point and Rochford, Southend, and Thurrock are less likely to get surgery.

To have an op, they have to satisfy a test, based on how far down an optician’s chart they can read.

In north Essex, patients merely need to show the cataract has an impact on their everyday lives.

Mr Rajesh Aggarwal, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Southend Hospital, said the difference was merely down to money.

He explained: “We have to abide by the rules or we get fined. For some reason, north Essex has changed its criteria, but that doesn’t mean a patient from here can go elsewhere and get it sooner.

“It is the commissioning group where you live, which pays for it.

“We’d like to be left alone as clinicians to decide, but it’s a dilemma for the commissioners who only have a lump of money and have to pay for a hip replacement, a cataract op, or chemotherapy.

“More patients are paying to go privately because they can have it sooner, before it affects them, and because they have access to better techniques and a choice of lens.

“There is no solution to this, as every budget is being squeezed.”

Clara Eaglen, RNIB eye health campaigns manager, said: “Regional variation has created a postcode lottery which is simply unacceptable. NHS ‘efficiency savings’, achieved by cutting cataract operations are a false economy.

They leave patients at risk of depression, social isolation and fall-related hip fractures which are more costly to treat.

South Essex clinical commissioning groups say they will sometimes make exceptions to their rules – if patients can prove they are in exceptional need.
A spokesman said: “All NHS groups have a service restriction policy.
“The criteria for service restriction are based on clinical evidence, as to the patients who will benefit most from the treatment.
“The policy regarding treatment of cataracts in south Essex is fully compliant with Royal College of Opthalmologists guidelines.”
He added his group looked at each individually, based on patients’ individual clinical circumstances.
It was up to GPs or ophthalmologists to make a case as to why their patient was “exceptionally likely to benefit from the surgery regardless of the criteria”, he said.

Comments (5)

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3:46pm Fri 19 Jul 13

Lordmountfield says...

Not a bad odds lottery, two balls......
Not a bad odds lottery, two balls...... Lordmountfield

4:05pm Fri 19 Jul 13

runwellian says...

It would be nice to have a choice as to where surgery is done, options are too limited.

At Southend eye surgery is done in s shed / extensions type building at the back of the hospital, not the most desirable environment by any means.

Buildings need to be 'fit for purpose', and too many appointments at this hospital are now held in shed type buildings attached to older buildings ... eye clinic, stroke follow up clinic etc.

Rather than keep adding on sheds, why can't Southend have a new hospital 'fit for purpose', although it will most certainly will never be my hospital, of choice at any time!
It would be nice to have a choice as to where surgery is done, options are too limited. At Southend eye surgery is done in s shed / extensions type building at the back of the hospital, not the most desirable environment by any means. Buildings need to be 'fit for purpose', and too many appointments at this hospital are now held in shed type buildings attached to older buildings ... eye clinic, stroke follow up clinic etc. Rather than keep adding on sheds, why can't Southend have a new hospital 'fit for purpose', although it will most certainly will never be my hospital, of choice at any time! runwellian

4:24pm Fri 19 Jul 13

Devils Advocate says...

I don't know if it is true, but it rumored that the a127 is the marked boundary between the haves and have nots in the Basildon area. If you live south, you have no chance, North of the road and there are sighns saying "Special offer: Two operations for the price of one. No waiting!"
As long as you know that we are all in this together! (Some of us, that is!)
I don't know if it is true, but it rumored that the a127 is the marked boundary between the haves and have nots in the Basildon area. If you live south, you have no chance, North of the road and there are sighns saying "Special offer: Two operations for the price of one. No waiting!" As long as you know that we are all in this together! (Some of us, that is!) Devils Advocate

5:08pm Fri 19 Jul 13

jolllyboy says...

It is not acceptable to leave people going blind or disabled with the reason that the money has run out or you are not bad enough. We all pay in and it should be equal all round. Should be will only happen if we all complain loud enough and long enough. Time for us all not to accept it - we are not wimps to just say okay - not any more we arnt.
It is not acceptable to leave people going blind or disabled with the reason that the money has run out or you are not bad enough. We all pay in and it should be equal all round. Should be will only happen if we all complain loud enough and long enough. Time for us all not to accept it - we are not wimps to just say okay - not any more we arnt. jolllyboy

7:21pm Fri 19 Jul 13

1nails says...

Once again we lose out......Because of one word.......IMMIGRATI
ON. !!!!.......It's UKIP for me next.
Once again we lose out......Because of one word.......IMMIGRATI ON. !!!!.......It's UKIP for me next. 1nails

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