Cataracts are a common eye condition that affects people of all ages, but it is more prevalent in older individuals. In the UK, cataracts are a significant cause of visual impairment, and the number of people affected is expected to increase as the population ages.
In the UK, cataracts affect around 2.5 million people aged 65 and over, and this number is projected to increase to around 3.5 million by 2035. Cataracts can also affect younger individuals, and an estimated 22,000 people under the age of 65 have cataracts in the UK.
The risk of developing cataracts increases with age, but other factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diabetes, and prolonged exposure to UV light can also increase the risk.
According to the latest statistics from the National Health Service (NHS), cataract surgery is the most commonly performed procedure in the UK, with around 400,000 operations performed each year. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world, accounting for around 50% of all cases.
Whilst a significant amount of cataract patients live in isolated and developing areas, cataracts, or avoidable blindness as a whole, have become a growing issue in the UK. It was discovered from recent data that there are over 628,000 people in the UK awaiting treatment for a myriad of issues such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
It was also discovered that 551 people had experienced complete sight loss due to an issue that could have been avoided and cured. Eye treatment has become the medical treatment with one of the longest waiting lists in the UK. The NHS estimate that once on the waiting list, it could be a 16-month wait.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been under significant pressure for the last couple of years. On top of the pressure is the scarce availability of treatment leading to long waiting lists. Earlier this month, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee published an inquiry into the reasons behind this, blaming the Government for a lack of advanced workforce planning in the health service.
According to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, 1,426 ophthalmologists are sufficiently skilled and experienced to perform complex surgical procedures on the eyes out of a total of 3,500 ophthalmologists working in NHS hospitals. This number needs to increase by 40 per cent to meet patient demand – to rise from 2.5 to 3.5 specialists per 100,000 population, as recommended by a 2021 public health report.
The call for the NHS to better utilise its workforce is just one part of a larger conversation about how to address the country’s healthcare shortage. More needs to be done to increase the number of skilled professionals in the NHS to meet patient demand.
Since 2021, Dr Sanduk Ruit and I have been working hard to significantly reduce those affected by needless cataract blindness in the developing world. This week, Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation teams visited Ghana and Ethiopia. Alongside HCP Cure Blindness, our teams have cured thousands of needless blindness for those who cannot afford eye health treatment.
Working and communicating the issue of cataract blindness across the world to policymakers and government figures is one of the ways in which we can truly eliminate this issue.
Overall, cataracts are a significant public health concern in the UK, and it is important to raise awareness about the condition and encourage regular eye checks to detect and treat cataracts early.
Tej Kohli is a philanthropist, technologist and investor.
To find out more about the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation visit: www.tejkohliruit.com.
Find out more about Tej Kohli: Tej Kohli the technologist investing in human triumph and Tej Kohli the London tycoon with a generous streak.