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Cataract Treatment

Volume 408: debated on Friday 11 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to ensure that the strategic health authorities and local clinicians are developing flexible and imaginative plans with NHS and private providers to make best use of the extra funds for cataract operations.— [124394]

£73 million in total has been allocated to the national cataract initiative. The aim of the initiative is to reduce waiting times for cataract operations to three months by December 2004 with many areas achieving this by summer 2004 and, following the reduction in waiting times, to pilot the introduction of choice at the point of general practitioner referral in a major specialty.Strategic health authorities have been asked to work with local trusts and primary care trusts and secure the early engagement of local clinicians to develop implementation plans setting out the following:

Firm dates for delivering six month and three month maximum waiting times for cataracts
The additional activity planned for 2003–04 and 2004–05 to deliver three months and the estimated split of activity for both years between national health service and independent sector providers
How this initiative links to local programmes for implementing patient choice particularly piloting choice at the point of referral, and
Linked improvements in the delivery of other eye care services, for example for chronic eye disease management.

In order to support this initiative further, a standard care pathway for cataracts is being developed by the national Eye Care Services Steering Group. The final pathway should be published later this year. In addition,£4 million has been allocated to fund pilots for improvements in chronic eye disease and low vision services.

These initiatives have the support of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists who are also encouraging clinicians to use this investment to develop innovative ways of working and deliver benefits for the full range of ophthalmology services.