Published on: 14 January 2020

Sunderland Eye Infirmary, the region’s specialist eye hospital and centre of excellence for ophthalmology care, has been praised in a new national NHS report for its effective delivery of high-volume cataract surgery.

The Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) report makes a series of recommendations for improving NHS care for patients with a range of eye problems.

Sunderland Eye Infirmary is singled out as an exemplar for its ability to carry out 12 routine cataract operations in a four-hour theatre list - surpassing the report’s suggested target of eight.

Staff at Sunderland Eye Infirmary are praised for their “very high standard of teamwork” in understanding their role in the pathway, maintaining the flow of patients and providing continuity of care to improve the patient experience.

Consultant Ophthalmologist Mr Jean-Pierre Danjoux, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Clinical Director for Ophthalmology, said: “For Sunderland Eye Infirmary to be singled out as an exemplar for efficient cataract surgery by the GIRFT report is a fabulous reflection of the dedication and hard work of all the staff, working together as a team to deliver high quality care for the population of Sunderland, South Tyneside and surrounding areas.”

The report recommends that all Trusts perform routine cataract surgery in 30 minutes or less, allowing even more patients to have vision-restoring treatment and making the best use of hospital theatre time.

Around 400,000 cataract operations were carried out in England during 2018, making it the most common surgical procedure in the NHS. If all Trusts were able to treat eight cataract patients on a four-hour theatre list, it could create an additional 26,500 hours of theatre time (53,000 more operations a year). If all Trusts were able to perform to the standards of excellence at Sunderland Eye Infirmary, as highlighted in the report, this figure would increase even further.

The latest GIRFT report – the 10th from the national programme which is helping to improve the quality of care within the NHS by bringing efficiencies and improvements – seeks to address the widely-acknowledged challenge of rising demand for ophthalmology services due to an ageing population.

Ophthalmology is already one of the busiest specialties in the NHS, carrying out 6% of all operations and booking more than 7.5m outpatient appointments across 120 Trusts. Demand is predicted to increase by more than 50% over the next 20 years.

Overall, recommendations and actions in the GIRFT report focus on how units treating the major sight-threatening conditions – cataract, glaucoma, wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) and diabetic retinopathy – can:

Optimise hospital theatre time for routine cataract surgery to enable more patients to be treated, more quickly;

Offer more care for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in settings outside of hospital and closer to patients’ homes, such as mobile units and community eye clinics;

Improve the referral process for patients with cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease to reduce the number of people attending hospital unnecessarily and ensure those who need treatment are seen more quickly; and

Arrange for some post-surgical care to be carried out by optometrists in the community, offering greater convenience for patients and freeing up outpatient time.

These and other recommendations in the GIRFT report have the potential to deliver cost efficiencies of up to £64m.

The report is authored by Alison Davis, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, Professor Carrie MacEwen, a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, and Lydia Chang, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

Ms Chang said: “In 120 visits to ophthalmology units, and in conversations with dedicated ophthalmology teams, we have heard of countless innovative solutions and successful practices which we are now pleased to share more widely in this report. Our thanks to everyone who has assisted in the production of this report – we are looking forward to seeing the recommendations being put into practice.”

To see the full report go to