Lockdown 2 won’t stop Bucks cataract surgeries – it is safe and crucial for patients to attend

Buckinghamshire Healthcare’s innovative ophthalmology team has been leading the way nationally, not only by being one of the first NHS trusts to have resumed surgery just weeks after the first government-instigated lockdown in March but by charging ahead to tackle Buckinghamshire’s cataract surgery waiting list with a safe, sustainable approach throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Since resuming surgeries in May, the team have safely and successfully completed 1,500 operations. Ophthalmology worked closely with the infection control team, putting in place COVID-safe measures to reduce the risk of infection for cataract patients, many of whom are considered vulnerable during the pandemic. All patients are tested for COVID-19 prior to their operations and asked to report any symptoms post-op. So far, there has not been a single case of COVID-19 reported for the cataract procedure. Cataracts usually get slowly worse over time, so it is important that patients due to receive the surgery attend all their appointments.

It is the most common procedure worldwide and, according to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO), the number of people in the UK needing this operation is set to double by 2035. The team is planning to kick-start the next phase of recovery with an intensive project delivering 500 operations in just two weeks.

Following this and building on the success of a pilot project in 2019, a bespoke standalone theatre will be built to enable the team to perform an additional 4,000 cataract operations over the next year, as well as offer 2,000 additional appointments to patients. The first of these operations will take place mid-November 2020 with the aim, within a year, to have worked through the Trust’s current cataract surgery waiting list.

Sarah Maling, consultant ophthalmologist and joint lead for the cataract service at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Our Trust is well known for delivering an excellent cataract service. It has managed to deliver over 1000 successful cataract operations during the last lockdown and has been supported by NHS England to establish a stand-alone cataract facility. We are delighted with this support and look forward to continue to care for all of our patients during these challenging times.”

The operating theatre was designed and installed by Vanguard Healthcare Solutions and Alcon, who worked closely with the Trust’s ophthalmology team to create a tailored solution for tackling the cataract surgery waiting list.

Simon Squirrell, National Sales Manager at Vanguard Healthcare Solutions, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust again and to be helping them deliver their excellent cataract service.

“We have worked closely with the teams at Alcon and the Trust to create a bespoke ophthalmic hub which not only provides a mobile theatre environment for the Trust’s clinical teams to perform cataract procedures, but also self-contained patient reception and staff facilities, entirely tailored to meet the hospital’s needs.”

Ross Bergin, Head of Commercial Solutions at Alcon UK & Ireland, said: “As global leader in eye care, we are extremely proud to partner with Vanguard and the Trust on this initiative to restore patients’ vision in a timely manner by integrating new safety protocols seamlessly into innovative treatment pathways. Combined with our latest technology in intraocular lenses, phaco equipment and dedicated technical service support, we aim to provide the best experience to patients within Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. Together, we are dedicated to helping people see brilliantly.”