Is Cataract Surgery Covered by the NHS?

As we get older, there seems to be an ever-growing list of things to worry about. When already having to think about finances, relationships, and our health, the thought of losing our vision due to cataracts is almost too much. And yet, cataracts are simply a natural part of ageing, with most people over the age of 80 affected.

So, what can you do if you begin to notice cataracts forming in your eyes? Is it time to call a private clinic or is Cataract Surgery covered by the NHS?

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Cataract Surgery on the NHS, including the pros and cons and your other options.

Cataract Surgery on the NHS

First and foremost, Cataract Surgery is available with the NHS. In fact, it is the most common procedure in the National Health Service with over 400,000 operations performed per year before the Coronavirus pandemic.

You may be offered Cataract Surgery with the NHS if your cataracts are affecting your eyesight and quality of life.

Overall, NHS-provided Cataract Surgery is a popular option for many people. Outcomes for NHS patients are consistently very good and results data is published regularly. Of course, cost also plays a significant role in decision-making with treatment being offered free of charge through the NHS.

However, recent data indicates that Cataract Surgery through the NHS is being increasingly rationed. According to a report by BMJ, patients are more often having to meet strict criteria before they can be referred for surgery. This could mean that you will be unable to access treatment through the NHS if you do not meet certain visual acuity thresholds.

Below are some other things to bare in mind before opting for Cataract Surgery with the NHS.

Drawbacks of NHS Cataract Surgery

Increased waiting times

We are all aware of the persistent increases in waiting times across the NHS. This doesn’t only affect the time it takes to get a GP appointment but many patients are also waiting significantly longer for routine procedures, including Cataract Surgery.

According to new data released in 2021, patients who had received Cataract Surgery through the NHS waited an average of nine months or more. In contrast, waiting lists for Cataract Surgery at a private clinic like London Vision Clinic are typically just a few weeks.

Only one kind of intraocular lens is available

Due to cost restrictions, the NHS is only able to offer one kind of intraocular lens. This is typically a monofocal lens which provides good distance vision but means that glasses will be required for intermediate and near vision after surgery. 

When you have your cataracts removed at a private clinic, however, you may be offered a wider range of intraocular lenses. Here at London Vision Clinic, we are able to offer the full range of commercially available IOLs with the aim of reducing your dependence on glasses after Cataract Surgery.

No choice over your surgeon

One of the major benefits of opting for Cataract Surgery with a private clinic is the level of personalised care you receive. This includes having the opportunity to choose who your surgeon is and meet with them prior to the day of your surgery to discuss the procedure and your personalised treatment plan.

Due to the long waiting times and constrained resources for Cataract Surgery through the NHS, it is likely that you won’t meet your surgeon until the day of your procedure. What’s more, as the NHS plays a vital role in the training of future cataract surgeons, your surgery may be performed by a Specialist Trainee.

Less comprehensive aftercare

Once your NHS Cataract Surgery has been completed, you will likely be discharged to an optometrist for your follow-up appointments. Furthermore,  if you experience any post-operative issues, you will need to attend A&E.

When opting for private Cataract Surgery at London Vision Clinic, your post-operative recovery will be tracked by the surgeon who performed the procedure. You will receive ongoing support from the clinic and will be able to contact us with regard to any concerns you may have.

Final Thoughts

The NHS plays an incredibly important role in providing Cataract Surgery to the UK public. It offers an essential service to those that need it and delivers consistently good results for patients. However, if any of the drawbacks mentioned above concern you, you may want to consider alternative options.

Private clinics offer faster and more comprehensive treatment for Cataracts. However, we are aware that the cost associated with private treatment can be a hurdle for many people. That’s why we offer various payment solutions – to help make our services more accessible. Find out more about our payment plans.

If you would like more information about Cataract Surgery at London Vision Clinic, get in touch today. Alternatively, Book a Consultation at our Harley Street clinic.