15-month delays for cataract surgery could lead to falls and broken bones

23 Sep 2016

A report published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) states that patients in England are having to wait up to 15 months to have cataracts removed from their eyes as a result of the NHS’s ‘efficiency savings’ – something which could have implications for falls in older people.

Long delays are reportedly causing misery for the mainly elderly patients troubled with cataracts, the RNIB says.

With vision affected, elderly people are at risk of falling, which can lead to broken bones for those with osteoporosis.

Professor Tahir Masud, Consultant Physician and clinical advisor to the National Osteoporosis Society, said: “The long wait for cataract surgery is likely to lead to harm to many sufferers from cataracts. Research has clearly shown that poor vision is a very important risk factor for falls and broken bones.

“In Nottingham, we performed a randomised controlled trial which clearly showed that operating on cataracts early compared to waiting for a year reduced fall rates by one third and also reduced fractures by over 70%.

“Diagnosing cataracts early and getting it treated early can therefore be as effective as any drugs used to treat osteoporosis in terms of preventing broken bones and it is extremely disappointing to learn that some patients are having to wait for 15 months”

The NHS performs more cataract removals per year than any other surgical procedure and the number of operations has been going up in recent years in an attempt to keep up with the increase in demand due to the ageing population.

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