Chase Farm eye surgeries set to be moved to Edgware

Enfield patients could face an extra 70-minute journey by public transport to Edgware., reports Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Edgware Community Hospital
Edgware Community Hospital

Patients who need cataract surgery could face longer journeys under plans to reduce the number of hospitals in North London performing eye surgery for “low complexity” conditions and free-up theatres for other operations.

North Central London Integrated Commissioning Board (NCL ICB) is planning to concentrate simple eye surgery procedures at Edgware Community Hospital in Edgware. It will have an extra seven sessions a week there for these kind of operations, moving surgeries away from Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, Whittington Hospital in Archway and Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield – likely to affect a fifth of eye operations in the North Central London area.

Eye surgery is still set to be offered at North Middlesex University Hospital in Edmonton and Moorfields Eye Hospital in Old Street, which is planning a move to a £350m new home in King’s Cross.

Health bosses said the plans would mean a “higher number” of operations could be done at one site.

The North Central London area – Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington boroughs – has some of the largest ophthalmology waiting lists in the capital and its waiting list increased by 48% between 2016 and 2023. The move aims to free up surgery space to help the hospitals in these boroughs keep up with demand and the 38,000 patients waiting for surgery such as orthopaedics and gynaecology.

A NCL ICB report said it “cannot keep up with demand” with growth of 30% between 2016 and 2022, while the number of operations has only increased by 8%. Waiting lists were also made worse by the backlog caused by Covid-19 lockdowns.

More complex eye operations which are not suitable for Edgware Community Hospital and are currently carried out by surgeons at Whittington and Chase Farm hospitals would be moved to other hospitals, including the Royal Free, which will have an extra three sessions a week for complex eye operations.

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NCL ICB bosses said the move would affect 5,000, or 20%, of the 25,000 eye surgery procedures carried out each year by the three NHS trusts – Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The commissioning board wants to bring in the changes by November or December.

A spokesperson said it would “allow us to improve surgical efficiency” and perform an extra 3,000 eye operations a year. It should cut waiting lists by ten weeks for some patients, to under 15 weeks. Currently patients are facing waits of up to 21 weeks for eye surgery at the Royal Free.

However, a report warned changes at Chase Farm could have an adverse impact on the over-65s in Barnet and Enfield, the black community in Enfield and the Asian community in Barnet, plus those with long term conditions.

Changes at Whittington could affect those from the most deprived areas, while older people, those with long term conditions, and Asian residents in Barnet, could benefit from the increased surgery at Edgware.

Some patients would have to travel “a bit further”, with an average of 19 minutes more travel time, although some could face longer trips. According to NCL ICB the patients whose journeys would be most affected are those patients moving from Chase Farm to Edgware or Hampstead, or moving from Hampstead to Edgware, or moving from Whittington to Edgware.

Patients who live near Chase Farm could face an extra 70-minute journey by public transport to Edgware.

A spokesperson said: “Doing more procedures on fewer sites is more efficient as it maximises the productivity of theatres and the surgical workforce. Efficiency is also enhanced by hubs being separate from emergency care, which reduces last minute cancellations and delays.”

Patients will be invited to share their views this summer. The commissioning board plans to hold focus groups with people who live near Whittington and Chase Farm hospitals and those might likely to need eye operations.

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