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J R Soc Med. 2002 Dec;95(12):598-600.

Pooled cataract waiting lists: views of hospital consultants, general practitioners and patients.

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Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre, City Hospital NHS Trust, Dudley Rd, Birmingham B18 7QH, UK.


In the National Health Service general practitioners (GPs) usually refer patients to named consultants; thus, waiting times for a particular procedure can vary greatly even within a single centre. An alternative is to pool the waiting list, with patients treated in turn by the consultant available. We sought opinions on this strategy, from patients, GPs, and consultants, in relation to cataract surgery. Questionnaires were sent to 776 consultant ophthalmologists; telephone interviews were conducted with 50 randomly selected Birmingham GPs; and 85 Birmingham patients listed for cataract surgery were asked whether they would change consultant to be operated on sooner. 503 (64%) of the consultants responded. Of consultants, 30% favoured pooled lists and 67% were against. Of patients, 82% favoured pooled lists and 18% were against. Of GPs, 92% favoured pooled lists and 8% were against. Some consultants thought that pooled lists were suitable for routine cases but not for more complex cases. 82% of patients expressed willingness to change consultant in order to get an earlier operation. In units with surgeons whose cataract-surgery practices are similar, pooled lists are one way to maximize theatre use and equalize waiting times for routine cases. The model could be applied to other routine surgical procedures such as hip replacement, herniorrhaphy and prostatectomy.

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