Cataract surgery is one of the simplest life-changing surgeries, with 450,000 people having the treatment every year in the UK.
But while it is available on the NHS, and is a simple day surgery procedure, the waiting times can be intolerable due to the enormous strain on services. A recent report saw a patient in Scotland told they would have to wait up to 92 weeks to receive the operation, which only takes minutes to carry out.
What is a cataract and who is affected?
The natural lens we have over our eye is normally entirely see-through, but with a cataract it becomes opaque, leading to vision loss. This is a common condition with ageing and can only be treated by surgery. While cataracts can happen at any age, older people are more likely to be affected.
These cloudy patches become bigger over time, causing blurry, misty vision.
People affected by cataracts can find everyday activities, such as reading, driving, shopping and socialising are affected, leading to isolation.
What are the symptoms?
Most people notice their vision going cloudy, which isn’t corrected through glasses or contact lenses. Some people also see their colour vision diminishing, or find driving at night or in bright sunlight increasingly difficult.
Untreated cataracts can eventually lead to blindness.
Thankfully, removing cataracts only takes about 20 minutes and is usually carried out under local anaesthetic, with patients experiencing little or no pain.
Is there an alternative to an NHS waiting list?
Yes! And being seen by Vision Scotland comes with lots of advantages. Firstly, you will be seen at a time and place that suits you, by some of the country’s leading consultants.*
They also offer advanced treatments – you can have a simple lens replacement, or a have a tri-focal lens replacement. This latter technique means that you not only have the cataract removed, but your vision corrected, meaning you won’t need to wear your glasses or contact lenses again.
Do my cataracts need to be advanced to be treated?
No, it’s a myth that only a mature cataract can be treated. Advances in medical techniques now mean it is appropriate to have a surgical intervention at an earlier stage than in the past, so people don’t need to wait until their vision, and quality of life, has significantly deteriorated.
Vision Scotland can usually provide an initial assessment, surgery and follow up care within six weeks of you contacting them.
Are there other benefits of having cataract surgery?
Cataracts affect all aspects of your daily life. This can range from dulling colours and reducing the quality of your night vision to even more serious problems that could land you in hospital.
“There’s a lot of research showing people who have cataracts have a higher risk of falls and fractures,’’ says Vision Scotland consultant Mr Jonathan Ross. “They also have higher rates of disability, depression and poor social functioning.”
Acting quickly means you can have as many years as possible with good eyesight, to enjoy everything life has to offer.
Nearly every patient Vision Scotland treats says they wish they had had treatment years ago. And, as an added bonus, recent research shows those who undergo cataract surgery are also at a lower risk of developing dementia.**
What happens at Vision Scotland?
Vision Scotland’s success comes from offering a service that is tailored to the needs of each individual patient.
“Our practice works closely with local optometrists to make sure the care we provide is joined up from optometrist referral through to surgery and then back to your optometrist for your final check-up – no one is lost in the system,” says consultant Sanjay Mantry.
“We are the only organisation in Scotland which provides each patient with an individual, named and dedicated patient care manager, who is available at every step of their journey.
“We’re often dealing with nervous and sometimes confused patients. A ‘one size fits all’ approach just doesn’t work for them and can make the whole experience much more stressful than it ever needs to be.”
Vision Scotland surgeons perform approximately 10 times more cataract procedures than the average eye surgeon, and boasts a complication rate 10 times lower – one in 700 compared with the UK average of one in 70.
The PHIN** study named Mr Jonathan Ross as the top cataract surgeon in Scotland by the number of surgeries performed, followed by Mr Sanjay Mantry. Mr Ross was also first across the whole UK, with Mr Mantry in third position.
If you want to find out more about Vision Scotland’s cataract treatments visit visionscotland.com.
*The Private Health Information Network (PHIN), which monitors the private healthcare sector, recently released data showing the number of procedures each surgeon completes over a year.
**Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, December 6, 2021.