More than half of CCGs restrict access to cataract surgery

Despite its proven effectiveness, the majority of clinical commissioning groups list cataract surgery as a “procedure of limited clinical value”

Walking stick

New research by the Medical Technology Group has highlighted that 104 of the 195 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England restrict access to cataract surgery.

In these CCGs, cataract surgery is included on lists of “procedures of limited clinical value.”

However, clinical guidelines published in 2017 by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) emphasise the cost effectiveness of cataract surgery, describing it as a procedure with “a high success rate in improving visual function, with low morbidity and mortality.”

Eye health policy manager for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Helen Lee, said that cataract removal can have a “huge impact” on the lives of patients and their families.

“It’s shocking that access to this life-changing surgery is being unnecessarily restricted by so many CCGs,” she said.

“We firmly believe that all patients who will benefit from cataract removal should be entitled to it and we encourage CCGs to ensure that the NICE guidance is properly implemented,” Ms Lee highlighted.

The investigation by the Medical Technology Group was conducted in October 2018.

Alongside restricted access to cataract surgery, the research revealed that hernia repair was being restricted in close to half of CCGs (95), while 78 CCGs included hip and knee replacements on their list of restricted treatments.

A smaller number of CCGs (12) refused to provide diabetes patients with a sensor that enables them to monitor their glucose levels throughout the day.

Medical Technology Group chair, Barbara Harpham, said it was unfair for patients to be denied access to treatments because of where they live.

“This indiscriminate rationing by local NHS organisations must stop now and information about what treatments are or are not provided should be made freely available to patients,” she emphasised.

The Medical Technology Group is calling for a national body to scrutinise decisions by individual CCGs and ensure patient access to treatments is consistent across the country.

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