Visit COVID-19 resources

[Skip to Content]

Refractive Surgery Standards

Surgery to correct refractive errors, using lasers or implants, to provide freedom from glasses or contact lenses is increasingly popular. Over 100,000 refractive surgery procedures (laser vision correction surgery) are undertaken every year in the UK and implant based alternatives are now widely available. Results are generally very good, but concerns have been raised by patient and consumer groups regarding inconsistent patient information and quality of care.

Recognising these concerns, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists brought together experienced refractive surgeons and ophthalmologists from across the public and private sectors. The Refractive Surgery Standards Working Group (RSSWG) developed new patient information leaflets and professional standards for refractive surgeons to improve patient safety and quality of care. The RSSWG collaborated and consulted widely with patients and those organisations working in the sector.

The Professional Standards for Refractive Surgery (Reviewed June 2020), aimed at surgeons and other medical professionals, provide clear guidance on the level of experience and knowledge refractive surgeons should have, as well as the environment for performing surgery safely, good communication and teamwork, continuity of care, and maintaining trust. With the review complete the RSSWG has completed its work and has been dissolved.

New patient information leaflets on the common refractive surgery procedures offer patients balanced and independent advice, based on the results of clinical trials, on the risks and benefits of refractive surgery to help patients make the right choices. Additionally, a Surgery Checklist acts as a quick reference guide helping patients cover important questions with their surgeon before agreeing to go ahead with treatment.

Because refractive surgery is performed largely in the private sector patients can be influenced by advertising and promotional offers. The RSSWG has also produced Refractive Surgery Advertising and Marketing Standards – Updated June 2017 which offers guidance for organisations to review against their own advertising and marketing methods; and to comply with the Advertising Standards Authority recommendations and their Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) codes of advertising.

Following on from the work of the RSSWG, eye surgeons are working towards a national database to provide accurate, up to date information on the results of refractive surgery in the UK and patient satisfaction levels.

The General Medical Council has issued additional information on the scope of its guidance for doctors who offer cosmetic surgery ‘Does the guidance cover laser or refractive surgery?’

Terms of Reference Refractive Surgery Standards Working Group

Membership of the Refractive Surgery Standards Working Group

Mr Bruce Allan FRCOphth Chair
Mr James Ball FRCOphth
Dr Susan Blakeney, Clinical Adviser, College of Optometrists
Mr Michael Burdon FRCOphth, Vice President and Chair of the Scientific Committee
Mr Bernard Chang FRCOphth, Vice President and Chair of the Professional Standards Committee
Dr Kieren Darcy, Ophthalmologists in Training Group
Mr Sheraz Daya, FRCOphth
Professor John Marshall FRCOphth (Hon)
Ms Rea Mattocks, Lay Advisory Group
Mr William Newman FRCOphth, Honorary Secretary
Dr David Teenan FRCOphth

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists does not provide a medical advice service.  Patients should refer to their ophthalmologist or GP when seeking advice and information about their conditions and treatments. Please review Patient FAQs.

Reference 1 The Keogh Report