Should I get private cataract surgery or NHS cataract surgery?

6 March 2023

By Author: Amir Hamid

Cataract surgery is a common elective operation, with almost half a million procedures performed annually on the NHS.

While the overall results of cataract surgery on the NHS are very good, one of the most commonly asked questions that we tend to hear is, Is private cataract surgery better than NHS? There are several differences between private cataract surgery and NHS cataract surgery, and as an Optegra patient, you can choose the one that best suits your vision goals and budget.


Is Private Cataract Surgery Better Than NHS Cataract Surgery?

The answer varies from person to person, depending on what you’re seeking to achieve with your vision.

The primary difference is that NHS surgery is aimed at removing the cataract and not vision correction. In contrast, private cataract surgery offers a range of intraocular lenses that aim to improve vision after the procedure and provide freedom from spectacles.

Most NHS hospitals use a standard monofocal lens due to cost restrictions. This lens usually aims to correct distance vision only; however, this outcome cannot be guaranteed. Patients will require glasses for intermediate,near vision and perhaps distance vision post-treatment.

On the other hand, private cataract surgery offers a range of options, including enhanced monofocal lenses or enhanced depth of focus lenses (EDOF) that offer clearer distance, intermediate vision, and some near vision, as well as focus and advanced multifocal lenses that aim to provide good distance, intermediate, and near vision.

In addition to a wider choice of intraocular lenses, private cataract surgery corrects astigmatism to provide the best possible vision after surgery without glasses.

Another difference between private and NHS cataract surgery is the choice of surgeon. Private cataract surgery allows patients to choose their consultant, who will perform the operation. However, on the NHS, the operating lists are pooled to reduce waiting times, meaning patients may not meet their surgeon until the day of admission or even just a few minutes before surgery. In the NHS, specialist trainees or Fellows perform surgeries under the supervision of an NHS consultant; the surgery may not be performed by the consultant themselves.


The Key Differences Between Private and NHS Cataract Surgery

There are several reasons why some patients opt for our world-class private cataract surgery options over NHS treatment. But there are also several other considerations that patients should weigh before determining private vs. NHS options.

A Wide Choice of Expert Surgeons

At Optegra, we boast a selection of world-renowned surgeons to select from. Private patients can not only choose their preferred surgeon but will also be able to meet with them in person prior to treatment to discuss any issues and have questions answered. NHS patients, however, will only be able to meet their surgeon on the day of treatment.

Advanced Techniques and Technology

All Optegra patients will have access to one of our five-star dedicated eye hospitals or clinics for their treatment. The latest technology and techniques are used for all types of cataract surgery. However, private patients can opt for enhanced cataract surgery or advanced cataract surgery. These options use the most advanced lens type to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses.

Exceptional Aftercare

NHS patients will usually be discharged to their community optometrist after their surgery. Private patients remain under the care of their consultant for up to one year post-operatively and are closely monitored by their aftercare team for three months post-operatively.

There are many factors to consider when choosing between NHS and private cataract surgery
Woman reading laptop with paperwork

Understanding the Difference Between Standard Vs. Enhanced Vs. Advanced Cataract Surgery

Optegra takes pride in offering personalised cataract surgery that is tailored to the patient’s lifestyle and needs. The cataract procedure involves removing the cataract and replacing it with an artificial lens, with the main difference between standard and enhanced cataract surgery being the intraocular lens used. Your surgeon will discuss the most suitable options based on your lifestyle and vision goals. For example, the toric intraocular lenses available to private patients can be a great option for those who may want clear vision without the need for glasses. Another private option are multifocal lenses that are designed to provide clear vision at different distances, reducing the dependence on glasses for various activities.

Our standard cataract surgery, which can be done privately or through the NHS, involves removing the natural lens and replacing it with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL). This procedure uses a monofocal lens, which aims to correct your distance only; however, this cannot be guaranteed.

Enhanced cataract surgery involves using a toric intraocular lens or an enhanced monofocal; this will help to correct any astigmatism, ensuring freedom from glasses for distance and intermediate vision; however, near vision will require spectacle correction.

Advanced cataract surgery replaces the natural lens with a permanent, advanced multi-focal lens. The multi-focal lenses can correct refractive errors at all distances, including shortsightedness and longsightedness, providing the freedom from spectacles that you desire. There are different types of lenses available to cater to varying needs, and your surgeon will advise you on the best option for you. This procedure involves the use of state-of-the-art femtosecond laser technology, and many patients have been able to free themselves from the use of spectacles and contact lenses after the surgery.

How Long Should You Wait Before Having Cataract Surgery?

While cataract surgery is not considered urgent in comparison to major surgeries such as cancer treatment, delays in treatment can cause patients’ conditions to worsen and negatively impact their quality of life.

If you believe you qualify, it is generally recommended to have cataract surgery sooner rather than later for a shorter recovery time, reduced surgery time and operative complications, and a decreased risk of significant visual impairments.

If left untreated, cataracts will worsen over time and make daily activities such as driving and reading increasingly difficult, negatively affecting overall quality of life. Therefore, cataract surgery is essential for preventing total sight loss.

It is also possible to get your NHS cataract surgery referred to Optegra by your GP or optician. This means the NHS will pay for your standard cataract treatment to be performed by one of our expert NHS-trained consultants at an Optegra location near you. You will also be able to get the treatment performed in a timely manner.

The existing waiting times for NHS cataract surgery varies by location but can be several years long
Person reading out of focus optician chart

How Much Does Private Cataract Surgery Cost in the UK?

Optegra takes pride in providing clear and transparent pricing for private cataract surgery, with a fixed cost per eye for the entire treatment. Our approach is different from other eye hospitals, as we do not add any additional fees along the way, ensuring that you are aware of the cost of your cataract treatment from the beginning.

Our commitment is to enhance the quality of life for our patients by improving their vision. That’s why we offer fully comprehensive cataract consultations that are free of charge and come with no obligation. Our cataract surgery procedures start at just £2,795 per eye; financing options with 0% interest are also available.


What Next? Contact us to discuss your cataract removal requirements

Whether you opt for a standard cataract treatment as done by the NHS or an advanced cataract treatment to reduce or eliminate your reliance on glasses, we can help.

Set up your free virtual consultation with one of our experts, and we can guide you further.

Amir Hamid Headshot

By Author: Amir Hamid

Mr. Amir Hamid is a Clinical Lead for Vision Correction and an expert refractive surgeon, based in London.

Medically Reviewed Date: 27th June 2024


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