The government has announced that over 50 new surgical hubs will open across England to help alleviate Covid backlogs and offer quicker patient access to vital procedures. The new hubs will focus mainly on providing high-volume low, complexity surgery, including ophthalmology.
Locations for 20 new or expanded hubs have already been confirmed. Currently, 91 surgical hubs have opened, meaning that in total, more than 140 hubs will be open across England by 2024/25.
One of the new surgical hubs will be at Western Eye Hospital, London, joining those surgical hubs to support ophthalmology services that are already open, including at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.
Surgical hubs have been opened to help reduce waiting times for some of the most common procedures, including cataract surgeries. Ophthalmology delivers the highest number of outpatient appointments in the NHS, accounting for almost 10% of all hospital attendances, including over 450,000 cataract surgeries each year. Improving quality and efficiency will mean patients have shorter waits for surgery, which is in line with the recommendations of the NHS England National Eye Care Recovery and Transformation Programme.
Reducing backlogs remains a vital issue for ophthalmology, and high-volume diagnostic surgical hubs are an integral part of this effort. Earlier this year, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists produced guidance on high-flow cataract surgery, outlining the steps to developing high-flow cataract services within hospitals. In late 2021, the College also published guidance on delivering cataract surgery training in high-volume settings, which sets out how training of cataract surgeons should be standardised and consistent within all settings.
The hubs are projected to deliver almost two million extra routine operations to reduce waiting lists over the next three years, backed by £1.5 billion in government funding. This breaks down to over 200,000 extra procedures in 2022-23, over 700,000 extra procedures in 2023-24, and one million extra procedures by 2024-25.
The College will continue to make the case for investment in eye care services in England and across the UK so that we can better meet patient needs.