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Lay Advisory Group comments on CCG embargo on eye treatments

16 December 2015

The Lay Advisory Group of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) advises the College on lay opinion concerning availability of treatments and the handling of patients. We have been informed that some CCGs are placing an embargo on several eye treatments and procedures from now until the end of the financial year. On the list of treatments to be disallowed are cataract operations for patients’ second eyes.

The RCOphth clearly stresses that the decision to perform second eye cataract surgery should be based entirely on clinical need.

Once a patient has developed cataracts they are almost invariably present in both eyes. To approve treatment for only one eye is to give 50% of a treatment.  The patient will be left with one good eye and one dysfunctional eye. We consider this to be wholly unsatisfactory and unfair. Patients will have to wait for appointments for their second eye at least four months ahead with the stress, worry and uncertainty of when it will be done. During this period they will have unbalanced vision.

This decision leads to a post code lottery for the availability of treatment. It is unreasonable for a patient in an area where they have run out of money for the rest of the financial year to be given 50% of a treatment whereas someone a few miles away across the administrative CCG boundary where they have not run out of cash will be given the full treatment as dictated by clinical need.

Does this mean that the only way to be sure of being treated is to go to your doctor as early as possible in the financial year?

Tom Bremridge
Chair