NHS eye care waiting lists in Newcastle to be cut by ACES

From left to right: Dr Mirna Belovari (surgeon), Pauline (patient) and Phil Green (surgery manager)

Community eye care provider ACES has won approval to begin treating NHS eye care patients in Newcastle, delivering vital services to the community such as cataract surgery. 

Cataracts are cloudy patches that form on the natural lens of your eye. Over time these patches usually become bigger, causing blurry vision and if left untreated, can eventually lead to blindness. The condition largely affects older people, and the longer they go without treatment, the greater the risk of associated mental health issues, or suffering a serious fall, which requires urgent and costly medical care. Statistics show that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 suffer a fall every year, rising to 1 in 2 over the age of 80[1].

The ACES Newcastle clinic treated their first cataract surgery patient Pauline, who was fast tracked for treatment at the Newcastle St. Nicholas Street clinic after hearing of long waiting lists for cataract procedures at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. At the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, patients regularly waited longer than the target time of 18 weeks for routine treatments in January[2]. On a date of her choosing Pauline was successfully treated for cataracts by ACES within 6 weeks of her pre-assessment appointment, having been referred by her optometrist.

Until now, NHS cataract patients in Newcastle have often suffered severe delays for treatment. The approval of ACES marks a step towards reducing the backlog for cataract surgery, meaning patients in the area won’t have to wait as long to receive care. People who live in Newcastle who have any concerns about their eyesight are encouraged to book a consultation with their optometrist or speak to their GP.

ACES typically treats the cataracts of NHS patients within four weeks, significantly reducing waiting times in the process. Giving patients the care they need in a timely manner helps to avoid further medical complications caused by poor eyesight, for example by reducing the risk of trips and falls. ACES expert surgeons will deliver the new NHS service from their state of the art treatment clinic in St. Nicholas street.

Speaking of her experience at the ACES clinic, Pauline said: “I was worried after hearing stories about the long waiting lists for the local hospital, but I have been treated so quickly at the ACES clinic in St Nicolas Street. From referral to treatment, the process has been smooth and fast, not to mention that the staff have been so friendly and reassuring. Having previously suffered from restrictive vision, having clearer sight has opened up my world to mean I can now drive safely and take more joy in my life.”

Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director at ACES, said: “This partnership has been instrumental in helping patients across the country to get the visual care they need. The backlog for NHS cataract surgery is one of the biggest challenges facing the sector, and this new contract will enable us to do even more to help reduce it. It’s crucial that anyone who is concerned about their vision speaks to an optometrist, or their GP, to be referred to ACES.”

Established in 2007, ACES has a track record of providing high-quality eye care services for NHS patients across East Anglia, and has now expanded its NHS services to across England. In addition to its new offer in Newcastle, ACES has also won approval to begin treating NHS patients in Exeter, Birmingham, Manchester, and Dartford.

[1] NHS UK, Conditions, Falls

[2] NHS Tracker: Find out about hospital waiting times in your area this winter – BBC News