Shining a light on cataracts
Lucy Patchett talks to practitioners about June’s Cataract Awareness Month to share insight on surgery backlogs, healthcare coordination and reducing negative stigmas
Communication with patients about cataracts can reduce negative stigmas about the procedure and create co-management opportunities for optical practices. With cataract awareness month underway, Amir Hamid, medical director and consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Optegra eye hospital, advised the industry to spread awareness by reaching out to the community more regularly: ‘Make people aware that some of the visual problems that they may be having could be due to cataracts, and thus an eye test is the first step in ensuring eye health into the future and being able to prevent detrimental progression.’
PRIVATE RATES Waiting times from referral to cataract surgery in NHS hospitals were at an average of nine months in 2021, after increasing by 61% from pre-pandemic 2019 to 2021, with an 89% rise for London trusts, according to an OCL Vision report. Therefore, it was a logical next step for the independent sector to get more cases commissioned from the NHS to alleviate demand across the healthcare system.
Hamid told Optician how Optegra adapted its model to help after the NHS postponed many cataract surgeries between 2020 and 2021 due to the pressure put on its services created by Covid. Once Optegra transitioned to implement Covid safety guidelines and restrictions, like many private eye hospitals, it took on a significant amount of backlogged treatments. He said: ‘We changed our focus from Optegra being an A-Z of ophthalmology to addressing NHS cataracts, but also providing private cataract and vision correction sur-
Optegra will deliver around 30,000 surgeries by the end of 2022
gery. So, we’re very focused on two legs of our offering, and ensuring things are carried out in a highly efficient and high-volume way.
‘We’ve subsequently ratcheted up our ability to deliver NHS cataract surgery, from pre-pandemic levels at about 5,000 a year, to around 30,000 surgeries by the end of this year. If you look back to a few years ago, we were providing about 10% of NHS cataract surgery. Now, it’s approximately half of cataract surgery provision in the independent sector.’
He added that, unfortunately, the surgeries needed will increase for at least another few years as many people who are still hesitant and cautious about exposing themselves to Covid infection risks have not come forward for cataract treatment.
Hamid said they achieved this by creating awareness around Optegra’s eye hospital services. ‘We have our representatives going out into the community communicating with optometrists. We also have an accredited shared care programme with our optometry partners. Practices will refer patients to us and we will perform the surgery, and then they will perform the follow-ups in the community, which is much more convenient for the patients.
Optegra has also built awareness with ECPs through regular webinars with optometry colleagues where cataracts, the latest advances in the surgery, and Optegra’s provisions are discussed. Now, as restrictions have been eased, in-person CPD ophthalmology events have started, including for cataracts, dry eye, red eye, macular disease and OCT. While similar referrals have been done in the past, the eye hospital has implemented the processes in a
“Invite the consultant into the practice and visit them at their workplace to get a better understanding of how you both work and can help each other.”
PRE- AND POST-OP COORDINATION As a result of the uptake by the private sector, hospitals and practices have had to finetune referrals and coordination for pre- and post-surgery care.
‘We know that, although patients are quite happy to travel for their surgery, they would prefer to have their follow-up visits performed much closer to home. So, it’s a win win for everyone.’
‘much more formal and structured way,’ which has enabled continuity of care to be more seamless than it was before.
Brian Tompkins, director of Tompkins, Knight & Son
6 OPTICIAN 10 June 2022