NHS or private cataract surgery?

NHS or private cataract surgery? The NHS provides excellent cataract surgery totally free – but then why choose to go private?

There are three main reasons for this:

Private treatment offers more convenience as well as personal choice of surgeon.

NHS surgeons are qualified to the same standards as private eye surgeons and the experience of NHS versus private surgeons should not be a consideration. However, NHS cataract eye surgeries are performed by a cataract team not one individual surgeon. This means that the surgeon you speak to for your pre-operation consultation may not be the surgeon who operates on you. Choosing to have cataract extraction surgery at a private cataract clinic lets you meet the cataract surgeon and ask questions directly to the person who will operate on you.

Another advantage of private treatment is reduced waiting time.

Waiting for cataract eye surgery on the NHS can take months, possibly even years. Waiting for cataract extraction allows the cataract to continue developing and your vision to deteriorate.

For most areas of the country, NHS guidelines for cataract surgery state that patients should have the cataract extraction operation within 3 months. If both eyes are affected by cataracts, patients can wait for another 6 months for NHS removal of the second cataract. Even if it were possible for hospital to perform the surgeries within this time frame, most cataract eye surgeons agree that 6 months is too long to leave a cataract developing, and with hospital waiting lists lengthening the chance of cataract surgery being performed within 6 months in an NHS hospital is slim – most cataract patients wait over one year for surgery

With private cataract extraction surgery, patients can be scheduled for cataract removal almost as soon as the cataract is diagnosed and if cataract surgery on both eyes is necessary, the cataract extractions can be performed a week apart.

Also, it is recommended that you undergo cataract eye surgery locally.

With NHS hospitals sharing waiting lists for cataract eye surgeries, your cataract removal operation may be scheduled in an NHS hospital that is not local to you or may be scheduled at short notice due to a cancellation on the waiting list.

While the cloudy eye symptom of cataracts should have disappeared once the surgeon removes the cataract, the eye drops used to dilate the pupil leave vision blurry and patients will have distorted vision for 4-6 hours after surgery.

If you schedule your operation at a private cataract clinic, the location of the clinic is your choice making it easier for you to plan your route to and from the hospital and the date of the operation is also your choice making sure you can arrange for somebody to assist you on the day of the cataract extraction surgery.


NHS treatment provides an excellent choice for people who have no financial means to pay for cataract eye surgery, however if you can afford cataract eye surgery at a private hospital the reduced waiting time could save your vision.


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