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Cataract surgery increases faster than planned

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

20 July 2006 Media Statement

Cataract surgery increases faster than planned

The Labour-led government's cataract surgery initiative is running ahead of target with 300 more New Zealanders getting surgery in the first 11 months of the programme than planned, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Figures released today show that between 1 July 2005 and 31 May 2006 a total of 8307 cataract procedures were performed - 330 more than planned during this period.

"In the last election Labour pledged to provide an extra 7,500 cataract procedures over the next three years," Pete Hodgson said. "We know that surgery significantly improves quality of life for people with cataracts and I'm very pleased to announce that the initiative is already beating its targets.

"This is a great achievement and demonstrates what a difference district health boards can make when they find innovative ways increase elective surgery volumes."

The government's cataract initiative began in July 2005 and over three years an additional $17 million will be pumped into cataract surgery, providing an additional 7500 operations.

As part of the cataract initiative district health boards were asked to develop practical ways of increasing productivity and efficiency.

Pete Hodgson said some district health boards had been running additional sessions to get more surgery done while others were using optometrists to assess patient referrals, freeing up ophthalmologists to do more surgery.

"The Waikato District Health Board have introduced a process that allows some patients to be referred directly on to surgical booking systems by optometrists. Lakes District Health Board is conducting a study involving optometrists screening conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma to see which conditions can be successfully managed by optometrists.''

Pete Hodgson said by the end of May a number of district health boards had already completed their full-year targets and by the end of the financial year many would have exceeded their targets.

The cataract initiative will continue until the end of the 2007/08 year with a progressive increase in the number of operations performed each year.

ENDS

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