“We will remain fully committed to continuing to support and provide NHS patient services”

Launched in 2008, Spamedica marks 15 years since it opened its doors (11 July)

People walking into a SpaMedica facility
NHS eye health provider SpaMedica is celebrating its 15th anniversary (11 July), having opened its first facility in Manchester in 2008.

Over the last 15 years, the company has treated thousands of NHS patients for cataract removal, YAG capsulotomy and wet age-related macular degeneration.

Established by former CEO Anil Pitalia, since opening, “SpaMedica has been dedicated to reducing surgery waiting times, delivering high quality outcomes, and supporting thousands of patients to achieve better vision,” its current CEO, Richard Woodward, who joined in 2021, told OT.

“The DNA of our organisation is patient-centric and we still live by Anil’s belief that we treat patients in the same way as you would treat your family,” Woodward added.

Today it employs more than 1700 staff across its 49 hospital facilities around the UK, more than 100 of which are in-house optometrists.

As SpaMedica prepares to mark the milestone with events and engagement activities throughout this month, OT spoke to Woodward to learn more about the business.

How is SpaMedica celebrating this milestone?

We’ll be holding internal celebrations, recognising team members’ contributions to the company’s success. We’re also running a social media campaign, shining the spotlight on SpaMedica patients who have regained their independence and are enjoying their lives again post-surgery.

How has SpaMedica grown over the last 15 years?

Our continued commitment to supporting patients, and our relentless focus on patient outcomes, satisfaction and quality have led SpaMedica to become the organisation it is today.

We now have 49 hospitals across the country and a hard-working, dedicated team of 1700 people. We’ll be opening our 50th hospital in North Tyneside this summer, which is another major milestone for us.

The company’s growth has allowed us to provide the best possible care to more patients, while supporting the NHS in reducing surgery waiting times and minimising variation and inequality across different regions.

Our model of working in partnership with the NHS has proved increasingly important in helping to meet heightened demand for cataract surgery, within an ageing population. And our focus on bringing care closer to home, into the local communities we serve, is more aligned than ever to NHS objectives – of delivering exceptional specialist care in communities.

SpaMedica CEO Richard Woodward sitting at a table
Richard Woodward, CEO of SpaMedica

What are SpaMedica’s three key goals for the future?

Our three main objectives are centred around ensuring every patient has the best possible experience of our services, and the best possible outcome: patient safety, excellent care and patient satisfaction. These are at the heart of everything we do – from investing in training to develop the skills of the next generation of ophthalmologists, to creating a tailored, company-wide plan to care for patients with dementia. Our company values – safety, integrity, kindness and transparency – are embedded in our day-to-day care and embraced by our staff, ensuring we deliver the best possible service to all our patients.

Growth comes as a consequence of achieving high quality and excellence


Is further expansion a goal?

As everything we do is patient-centric, our ‘goals’ are all about the patient experience. Are we seeing quality outcomes for patients? Are they having the best experience with SpaMedica at every point of their journey? Are we supporting the NHS to provide the most efficient pathways? How can we improve our training and facilities? Our growth is a consequence of not resting on our laurels and continually exceeding in these areas. Growth comes as a consequence of achieving high quality and excellence.

Can you share two highlights for the business since it was established?

The development of our training provision has been a huge highlight – we opened our first dry lab in Widnes, in September 2020, giving the opportunity to NHS registrars to practice in a simulated surgery environment, using the latest technology and synthetic eyes.

We now have three more regional suites, in Wokingham, Stockton and Wolverhampton – all delivering training in digital dry labs using the latest ophthalmic technology, with the aim of improving confidence and capability in surgery for ST1 to ST7 doctors. We also have two pop-up dry labs in Birmingham and Poole, and we’re proud to be helping to support the career progression of new NHS doctors, with consultants providing one-to-one training of surgeons in theatre. We’re passionate about training future generations, so giving registrars the opportunity to observe and actively participate can be an important part of their professional development.

Two of our hospitals with training suites – SpaMedica Widnes and SpaMedica Stockton - have been graded as ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and inspectors praised the hospitals’ dry lab facilities in their reports. These facilities benefit other nearby hospitals too. For example, surgeons at SpaMedica Preston – which also received an ‘Outstanding’ rating last year – can make use of the suite at SpaMedica Widnes.

More generally, we’re incredibly proud that all of our sites that have been audited to date (32 in total) have received either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ ratings, highlighting our excellent patient outcomes and rapid referral-to-treatment times. It’s a testament to the hard work of all our teams, and I know our teams in Gloucester and Poole were thrilled when the CQC’s head of hospital inspection described their hospitals as “an exemplar of best practice which others can, and should, learn from.”

How do you better work with optometrists to raise awareness of SpaMedica and its services?

We’re proud to be working closely with community optometrists up and down the country. We have a national team of sales promotions executives – they support individual practices with their referrals and queries. We also have a 24/7 helpline available which optometrists can refer their patients to and can use themselves, ensuring that every patient feels informed and cared for, and that their experience is as seamless as possible.

We regularly hold optometry CPD sessions, accreditation events, and open evenings. In 2011, we launched our post-op accreditation scheme and have since gone on to train over 5000 community optometrists to carry out patients’ post-operative consultations.

We’re proud to be working closely with community optometrists up and down the country


If we were talking in 2038, where would SpaMedica be and why?

SpaMedica will stay true to Anil’s original mission of treating every one of our patients as if they were family. That is our DNA and it’s the responsibility of me and everyone within the organisation to ensure our patients are always the priority.

Looking ahead to the next 15 years, we will remain fully committed to continuing to support and provide NHS patient services – we’ll work with the NHS to develop the next generation of the workforce – including clinical teams and surgeons – to ensure that level of care remains.