Lack of foresight

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Two medical items in last week’s Observer caught my attention: the news account of the eye surgery unit at St Richard’s and the separate survey of diabetes by Dr Ken Laji.

The former is a tremendously welcome achievement and an invaluable facility for the local community many of whom, as is noted, are aging and suffering cataracts.

The latter, diabetes, is rightly pointed out as not only originating from matters like diet or lack of exercise, but also from uncertain genetic and stress-related conditions, and is a disease increasing among older people.

Surprising, then, the optical test for entitlement to cataract removal was surreptitiously raised within this National Health area last October 2010, thus limiting the numbers treated.

The narrow application of this test, made without reference to the patient as a whole person who might also, for example, be coping with problems of balance for which optimum vision is a necessity, will be sufficient to debar that person from attaining even the politician’s infamous ‘free at the point of treatment’ stage.

The public should be aware of this.

Similarly it is in their interest to be reminded the monitoring of feet is a vital constituent in controlling seriously adverse diabetic symptoms. Questions concerning this were, in fact, asked in the House of Commons and in the Lords on April 26, with ministers citing Southampton as providing a model service.

Hopefully, therefore, our own local health authorities will be eager to emulate this model and ensure not only that the podiatry services presently lodged in the Chapel Street Clinic are maintained, but also appropriately enhanced to match those vital needs: the neglect of which will not only increase individual disablement and social dependency but also hospital surgery and bed blockage.

I welcome an informed response to these issues that takes us substantially further than the usual dismal recital of book-keeping arithmetic.

David Anstis