“Short Sighted Cuts”

Visual impairment affects more than half of older people and I am not talking about the many people who need glasses to improve their eyesight.  I am talking about the point where deteriorating vision begins to limit your daily life.  In annual surveys I used to do of older residents in retirement housing, around 50% of people said they had problems with their sight which led to everyday difficulties with getting around, reading, watching television.  Even more limiting are issues like preparing food; or not being able to read labels when shopping; and of course driving.

Visual impairement, along with hearing impairment, are the relatively simple medical conditions which, left unattended, can lead to loneliness and isolation.  Then further down the ageing slippery slope to depression and pills, or falls and fractures.

That is why the findings of a recent report by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, are so worrying.  The study of cataract surgery carried out in the NHS found that over half the Primary Care Trusts were restricting access to simple eye surgery because of their need to save money.

It is issues like this which so graphically demonstrate the NHS’s blatant disregard for the quality of life for older people.  Preventative health care takes a back seat as soon as money is required to be saved.  Yet by saving less than £1,000 on cataract correction on one eye, the same NHS acute hospital may later on have no option but to spend much more on a fractured hip of the same elderly person who has fallen as a result of their poor sight.

Cataract surgery is the most common operation carried out in the NHS with 400,000 being done each year.  The RNIB study found that 53% of PCT’s are cutting back on these procedures.

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5 Responses to “Short Sighted Cuts”

  1. as ever John very perceptive. No comment other than to agree! I wonder are my previous comments on a ‘questionable bonus’ was worthy of me, if an annual health MOT by a medical practionioner for the elderly and correctly carried out, would alliviate the mis-appropriation of NHS Funds? and give rise to the underlying aliements and not the plaster on the wound? So in the long run making savings to the NHS budget, which is to the benefit of the individual and us all.

  2. Jon Cleaver says:

    The news that PCT’s are cutting back on the amount of cataract surgery is disturbing. What is interesting is the figure of 53%, which means that 43% of PCT’s are still carrying out the operation.

    I tread on sticky ground on this one, but here goes.

    1/ It would be interesting to know which 43% of PCT’s are still performing the operation and what areas they are in.

    2/ Are the 53% in areas where there are less cataract problems and see this as an easier option to makes cuts.

    3/ As I understand at present a patient can choose which hospital to be treated in, which might help. The downside to this of course as far as an elderly patient is concerned, is mobility.

    What is equally as worrying about this whole issue is that it is not just the health service that is causing problems. We are all aware that savings need to be made in the public services. Your one liner “short sighted cuts” sums up for me, the whole attitude, lack of planning and forward thinking by government in general. I believe that until this mind-set is re-tracked, we will still be talking about our failure to organise a workable NHS in ten years time. By then the problems will have manifested into a festering cauldron.

    I have had one cataract removed about ten years ago, now I have to have my other eye operated on. Under the present situation, what chance do I have?

  3. Maureen o'Neill says:

    Thee is nothing new about the restrictions of Cataract removals.
    My doctor referred me to the eye consultant probably about 12 years ago. I was told that i would be discharged from the waiting list and I could go back in a years time (The red tape involved meant it would be more likely 18months time. “It doesn’t need doing yet – Tell your doctor to refer you in a years time.
    This was at the time when the government was making a big fuss about waiting lists. I knew it needed doing so I went to another hospital with my local doctors blessing. He referred me and my eye was seen to very rapidly. The consultant said it would be removed in about 3 months. It was successfully done within about 8 weeks. !!!

  4. Oh Maureen what a sight, with my good eye I espy you! with my bad eye I look at you in amazement: As you say you now have second sight to go with second wind? Puff Puff!

  5. Apart from the time after luncheon when all good officers go for an afternoon nap, I am bitten by a flea? John you stir so much in this breast of mine, and get such wonderful responses I take heart. However today I put my thinking cap on and let loose a diatribe for general consumption.
    You have penned your short sighted cuts, pilly gallor, and pieces on alhziemers and dementure.
    I have not a solution but a suggest item for discussion i.e.
    All of us over 60 or 65 if we have a full pension pay no National Insurance? I think I am correct.
    What I respectfully suggest is that maybe an organisation for the over 55’s rolls up a plan for health checks at regular intervals say annually on an anniversay agreement!
    The health checks to be conducted by a group of health professionals for:
    1/ General well being, divided into
    a/ Vital organ functions
    b/ Skeletal Problems and well being
    c/ Dietary and general boldily well being
    2/ Dental care
    3/ Optical impairment
    4/ Speech and audio well being.
    5/ mental abilities and awareness
    These tests inspection be itemised and identifiable with an econonomic costings individually, and then this cost averaged out over the aged population off over 55 years of age in any one geographical area.
    The costings then to be removed from the NH Budget and an introduction of an old age premium for instigating these test on a national scale, such that a premium is paid by all of us over retirement age until death.
    This may help pay for the short commings of the future forseen aging population, and give them a budget guideline for there economic well being in retirement?
    I suspect this will not be popular? However as you keep saying John all of us in Old age will have to provide for our own future, and it may help reduce to some effect the catastrophic costs when we all fail and hospital care becomes the only solution.
    It is not a rosey picture or a helpful one, but one has to use all the facilities avaiable to day to ensure our way of life tomorrow is comfortable, and if we ignore the services today available we cannot complain tomorrow that we as individuals were not told. We have to look after our selves first with the means at hand. What I was trying to propose was a more formal arrangement and agreement between the ‘State’ and the ‘Individual’.

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