A number of NHS hospitals are offering patients the opportunity to pay for cataract operations and reduce waiting times, it was claimed in the national press last week (9 April).Reported by the Daily Mail, Freedom of Information figures obtained by the paper show that of 78 hospital trusts across England, 41 allowed patients to self-fund cataract treatments, charging up to £2,700 an eye.
According to the newspaper, the figures showed hospitals in England offering paid-for operations charged between £700 and £1,000 per eye, while Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey charged £2,552 and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent £2,700.
University Hospital Southampton said patients could opt to pay for the surgery if they did not qualify for it on the NHS, with details on its website reading: “Our cataract choice service offers a new option, between the traditional private sector and the NHS, bringing private healthcare within the reach of many more people.
“Surgery will be offered much sooner than the usual NHS wait and we predict that the wait will come down even further as more people take advantage of this service.”
The price for the service is listed at £1,400, with the hospital stating “a significant proportion of the fee going back to support the Eye Unit.”
Learning the news, Age UK expressed concern as cataract surgery “becomes harder to access.”
Speaking to OT, charity director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, added: “In the last few years it has become harder to access cataract surgery as people are forced to wait for their sight to significantly deteriorate before getting help.
“It is extremely worrying if people whose sight is starting to fail feel the only way to get help quickly is to pay for it.”