Cataract training for junior doctors launched by Optegra

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has welcomed the new programme, which it says will increase capacity and improve outcomes

Image shows a patient in a blue hospital gown laying on a bed whilst an unseen surgeon approaches their eye with a large needle 

A cataract surgery training programme for junior doctors has been launched by private eye hospital group, Optegra.

The new training scheme will see junior doctors access high volume cataract surgery, alongside their main NHS work.

It will include an individual plan for each doctor, which will focus on the specific areas that they want to develop.

Time to review each case will be built in, and procedures will be filmed so they can be analysed and learnt from afterwards.

The programme has been welcomed by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, with training committee chair Sarah Maling saying that it will give junior doctors “the opportunity to secure the vital hands-on surgical experience they need to enhance their surgical skills and improve outcomes.”

“England’s NHS commissioned eye services continue to increase independent sector cataract surgery and it is a necessity to include training in the delivery pathway,” Maling said.

She added: “The College has set out clear guidance and recommendation to support training in an independent sector setting and recognises the benefit of such settings to provide comprehensive cataract surgical training.

“Given the reduction of surgical opportunity that trainees are reporting, the College is keen to facilitate access to all training opportunities.”

There is a shortage of ophthalmologists in the UK, with 76% of ophthalmology units reporting that they do not have enough consultants for their workload.

There are currently over 640,000 people waiting for ophthalmology treatment in the UK.

A young woman with straight blonde hair and blue doctor’s scrubs smiles at the camera
Junior doctor Lava Nozad
The first junior doctor to take part in the Optegra scheme is Lava Nozad, who is in her third year of speciality training in ophthalmology with Kent, Surrey and Sussex Deanery. 

Nozad noted that she only received one week of ophthalmology teaching during her medical degree, even though it was “the element which excited me [the] most.”

The Optegra programme “creates a really rounded level of training for me and hugely increases the numbers of patients I operate on,” she said.

Alongside her training at Optegra, Nozad works for the NHS at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

She said: “I am so thankful for this opportunity, which allows me to learn about and experience high volume cataract surgery. I love operating, [and] am really enjoying engaging with patients to work out what level of support they need throughout the procedure and working with the excellent Optegra team, who have been so welcoming.”

Optegra takes on a mixture of private and NHS-funded work, with more than 140,000 treatments performed annually.

During her placement, Nozad is working alongside Dr Alastair Stuart, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon.

Stuart said: “These future consultants need to gain as much surgical experience with patients as possible, and we can provide that, with direct support to ensure utmost safety for our patients.”