Charity and patients’ joy as health bosses change their minds over eye surgery decision

Rosa Baker from Toftwood near Dereham has been waiting for her eye cataract surgery. Picture: Matthe

Rosa Baker from Toftwood near Dereham has been waiting for her eye cataract surgery. Picture: Matthew Usher.

South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has reversed its decision to automatically reject applications to pay for 31 procedures, including second eye cataract surgery, after receiving 'feedback' from clinicians.

The move was welcomed by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), which had previously warned against making it harder for patients to qualify for second eye cataract surgery.

The saga began in late November when the CCG wrote to GPs and hospitals to inform it was 'tightening up' the rules on the eligibility of patients for NHS operations such as the eye surgery, tonsillectomy, and lipoma.

These procedures are not routinely funded by the NHS but the CCG wanted 'greater clinical scrutiny' over patients' eligibility. According to the RNIB and Royal College of Opthalmologists, this meant some patients could face being eligible for surgery on one eye and not the other.

The RNIB warned this would increase risks of blurred vision and elderly people falling due to losing balance.

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However CCG has since admitted the decision prompted 'misunderstanding' about patients' eligibility, which led to operations being cancelled.

After receiving feedback from other clinicians, the CCG announced in early January it would reverse its decision and set up a new 'clinical review process'.

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All applications for the 31 surgeries that were rejected have therefore been reviewed under the previous set of criteria.

Holly Heath, eye health policy and campaigns officer at the RNIB, said: 'RNIB is pleased with the news that South Norfolk CCG will no longer automatically reject second eye cataract surgery.

'Since the initial decision to restrict the surgery we have been working closely with patients affected by the policy, ophthalmologists and Richard Bacon (MP for South Norfolk) to make a strong case as to what impact this would have on patients.

'We will continue to monitor the situation and are waiting for further details on what eligibility criteria will now be used for patients requiring second eye cataract surgery.

'RNIB strongly believes that everyone who has a sight-threatening condition deserves early access to treatments; no one should have to live with sight loss unnecessarily.'

A spokesman for the CCG said: 'Clinical review of applications is being tightened up to ensure a long-standing Norfolk-wide policy is applied fairly and as intended.'

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