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Elderly at risk due to long NHS cataract operation delays

Elderly at risk due to long NHS cataract operation delays

Wednesday 24 July 2019

New data has revealed that people in need of cataract operations are having to wait almost 6 months in some areas of the UK to have the operational procedure performed.

The number of people receiving cataract-removal surgery has increased massively over the last decade with nearly 100,000 more people having surgery per year currently compared to 10 years ago. However, despite this, the waiting list is constantly increasing and leading to significant delays for those who need the surgery.

The worst affected area is Hertfordshire in which patients are facing an average delay of 168 days before having their cataract surgery. This is closely followed by Great Yarmouth and Waveney which faces a delay of 163 days. The data, which was collected by NHS digital, revealed that the 3rd longest wait would be found in North Lincolnshire with a waiting time of 154 days.

The results are of cause for concern due to the length of time some elderly are having to live with impaired vision. Poor visibility can represent a danger for the elderly who are at more risk of a fall and seriously injuring themselves. There is also the suggestion that too many clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are denying people from having cataract-removal surgery in order to save money. According to Helen Lee who is the policy manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People ‘It is shocking that patients are waiting months and on too many occasions being denied cataract surgery’. Helen goes on to state that as a result of this, the elderly are ‘losing their independence’ and can’t do ordinary things that they should be able to do such as driving.

Due to the increasing delays to cataract operations, the NHS is being forced to send more and more patients to be treated privately. 75,005 patients were sent to private healthcare in 2017-18 compared to 41,860 in 2013-14 – a 79% increase. As 377,000 NHS funded cataract procedures were completed in 2017-18 this means that around 1 in 5 operations were completed privately.


  1. Long delays to NHS cataract operations leave elderly at risk.



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