The Royal National Institute for the Blind claims that its research continues to show cataract operations are being restricted due to financial pressures on the NHS.

In response to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's comments last week that any patient needing cataract surgery should get it "without delay", the charity says "this just isn't happening", and that some are being forced "to live with unnecessary sight loss and a reduced quality of life".

In a letter to the Health Secretary, it stressed that cataract surgery is still being rationed for financial reasons, despite it being approved by the National institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The recent case where St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recently announced but then retracted its statement that it would temporarily suspend routine operations in a bid to save cash is "just one example of decisions being made as a result of cost-cutting rather than clinically-led".

"Whilst St Helens CCG has now dropped these plans, they are still exploring ways to save money and we're concerned this could include cataract surgery," the charity noted, adding: "no decision about me without me" principle means that patients should have the opportunity to discuss the merits and risks of surgery with a professional. However, this is being significantly undermined as a result of CCGs' arbitrary policies".

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) has also expressed concerns about potential rationing and postponement of second eye cataract surgery which, it stressed, should also be performed based entirely clinical need.

"The [College] understands the financial pressures the NHS faces but we believe that any restriction, postponement or delay in cataract surgery made through commissioning decisions will not produce the efficiencies or cost savings expected," said its president Professor Carrie MacEwen.

The RCOphth anticipates an increase of around 50 percent in the number of cataract operations needed over the next 20 years due to an ageing population, but insists that cataract surgery "is a highly cost effective and efficient surgery that has a rapid effect in restoring a patient's vision and preserving their ability to live an independent life".

The RNIB has asked for the Health Secretary's support in calling on commissioning groups to "urgently implement" NICE-accredited cataract commissioning guidance to secure the best and most appropriate care for patients.