Are NHS Cuts Forcing Brits To Go Overseas For Cataract Treatment?

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  • 18% of sufferers who haven’t yet had surgery would consider going abroad for treatment
  • The top reason is that it is easier/quicker to get an appointment abroad (37%) followed by 33% who said they can’t afford to have the treatment privately in the UK
  • 41% said they would be likely to claim compensation if there were bad side effects following surgery abroad

The Law Of... nhs cuts and getting cataract treatment abroad

Cataracts is one of the conditions that caused avoidable vision loss among 65% of 32.4 million blind people in 2010, yet cataract surgery is a relatively straightforward procedure that can help improve people’s sight significantly. It’s also the only effective way to treat cataracts, according to the NHS.

The Law Of... nhs cuts and getting cataract treatment abroad

However, with ongoing concern that the surgery could be rationed to ease financial pressures on the NHS, it may come as little surprise that 18% of those who suffer from cataracts would consider going abroad to have the treatment.

18% of cataracts sufferers who haven't had surgery would consider going abroad for it

1 in 20 Brits (5%) currently suffer from cataracts while 3% have suffered from cataracts in the past but are not presently affected.

5% of Brits suffer from cataracts

Of those who have had cataract surgery, 8% have gone abroad to have the treatment while almost a fifth of those who haven’t yet had the surgery would consider doing the same, with the top reason being that it would be quicker/easier to get an appointment abroad (37%). Other prominent reasons include the fact that they couldn’t afford to have the treatment privately in the UK (33%), while 24% said they would like to have the treatment and enjoy a holiday at the same time.*

The survey also showed over twice as many male respondents compared to females (19% vs. 9%) would consider going outside of the UK to undergo the surgery. However leading legal firm Simpson Millar is calling on the UK to think twice before being lured by what may seem like a tempting offer.

With some Brits feeling like they have little choice than to go abroad, Geoffrey Simpson-Scott, Partner of Medical Negligence at Simpson Millar makes some important observations:

"In the UK, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has regulatory authority to ensure that the premises and facilities where laser eye surgery is performed adhere to certain standards. This helps to guard against rogue practitioners offering cut-price surgery in hired venues, which can sometimes take place away from their respectable consulting rooms."

Countries such as Poland, Hungary, Thailand, Turkey, and Spain are the most popular destinations for UK patients seeking medical treatment, according to the 2015 Medical Travel Trends UK1 and in 2015, 5% of all MEDIGO enquiries were for ophthalmology procedures such as cataract surgery.

While the treatment must be consistent with a minimum national standard in the UK, the standards and systems for claiming compensation can differ depending on the country, and in some places, it may not be customary to seek remuneration.

An example of this would be in the Baltic States, and as Ramune Mickeviciute, Paralegal - Medical Negligence at Simpson Millar, who herself originates from Lithuania explains:

"As far as I know from practice, doctors (especially dentists and other surgeons) might give you some sort of form to sign. However, it would not be like the typical consent form we are used to in the UK. Those forms are there for you to sign in order to say that you will not have any comments or complaints if something goes wrong. Even if people might have complaints, it is not common practice to sue public bodies or medical practitioners."

Despite the fact that 41% of past or present cataracts sufferers agreed they would be likely to claim compensation after suffering a side effect or long-term damage to their eyes following surgery abroad, the truth is it may not be quite so straightforward, as Geoffrey explains:

41% would claim for compensation if there were bad side effects following treatment abroad

"A patient who has travelled from England to have eye surgery abroad for correcting eye conditions such as cataracts may find that they cannot seek compensation when they return to the UK. Many people make the mistake of thinking the same rules will apply elsewhere. Patients may also find that there are certain restrictions in place, which would make it impossible to claim compensation should something go seriously wrong."

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 6247 adults, of which 438 have ever suffered from cataracts; 262 currently suffer and 176 have suffered in the past, but don’t currently. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th August – 1st September 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

* Stats for this question were based on a sample size of 47 responses2

Figures from 2015 Medical Travel Trends UK

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