Jack and Jill Operating Theatres Help Cut Waiting Times for Cataract Surgery

Waiting times for cataract surgery in NHS Forth Valley are being reduced and outpatient assessment clinics increased, thanks to a two and a half million-pound investment from the Scottish Government.

Over the past 6 months the ophthalmology department at Falkirk Community Hospital has been piloting what are known as Jack and Jill theatres – two theatres side by side running concurrently – for cataract operations. This allows surgeons to step swiftly from one theatre to another, increasing capacity and efficiency. Supporting a second operating theatre to remain open helps deliver the equivalent of 8 extra operating sessions and enables an additional 8 cataract cases to be carried out every day or around 32 additional cases every week. Previously, around 12 cataract operations were carried out in a day but a surgeon working across two operating theatres can now do around 20 cases in one day – which represents a 67% increase in activity.

Whilst the waiting time and the number of people waiting for cataract surgery has significantly improved, rising demand is starting to outweigh the number of operations being carried out. To prevent a bottleneck developing and a queue forming, throughput in outpatient clinics is set to be increased from 10 patients a clinic to 21 patients. This will involve reconfiguring the existing clinic space at Falkirk Community Hospital, where the majority of cataract operations in Forth Valley are carried out, as well as the recruiting and training of additional staff.

NHS Forth Valley Consultant Opthalmologist, Dr Paul Flavahan, said “This additional investment in local ophthalmology services is great news. It has allowed us to be really innovative and our team is working extremely hard to tackle the backlog of operations that have built up due to Covid-19 pandemic.”

The upgrading of operating theatres used for ophthalmology procedures is due to continue over the next two years and will enable an additional weekly 32 cataract surgery operations and 55 additional outpatient assessments to take each week.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Plans to increase the number of cataract procedures within NHS Forth Valley are very welcome and will ensure people are not waiting any longer than necessary to have this transformational surgery. I am grateful to all the ophthalmic surgical team for constantly improving the care that they are providing to patients.”