A NEW ‘Jack and Jill’ ophthalmology theatre at Queen Margaret Hospital will reduce waiting times for cataract operations.

The £560,000 investment will see one surgeon working simultaneously in two theatres which will lead to 500 more procedures a year being carried out in Dunfermline.

Cataract surgery is the most common operation in the UK and improves the patient's eyesight by replacing a cloudy lens inside the eye with an artificial one.

NHS Fife's new system will also ensure that all patients in the Kingdom who require the procedure can have it carried out locally.

Dr Shona Sutherland, consultant ophthalmologist, said: “Fife’s ophthalmology service has long prided itself on offering a cataract service that is second-to-none.

“Despite year-on-year improvements in the efficiency of the service, the demand over recent years has meant that we could not treat all patients requiring cataract procedures locally, or offer the level of flexibility for patients that we once did.

“It was crucial, therefore, that we found a more sustainable means of providing cataract surgery for the population of Fife and the changes we have made enable us to do exactly that.”

Demand for cataract surgery has increased considerably over recent years with around 3,000 procedures each year in Fife. This is expected to rise to 3,500 by 2022-23.

Until recently there was only one cataract theatre in Fife and keeping up with rising demand meant weekend waiting list theatres and, in some cases, meant patients travelling to Glasgow for their out-patient appointment and treatment.

The decision was taken to increase capacity by adding an additional theatre to run side-by-side with the existing treatment area, creating what is known as a ‘Jack and Jill’ theatre.

A single surgeon can work simultaneously across the two adjoining theatres, allowing nursing staff to prepare the patient before the surgeon arrives to start the operation.

Once the procedure is complete, staff can prepare the theatre for the next patient as the surgeon moves on to the adjoining procedure room to start the next case.

The ‘Jack and Jill’ model is already used successfully by high-volume units in other parts of the UK and the new arrangement will create additional capacity for around 500 cases per annum, with scope to increase this further as demand increases.

The new model will also improve NHS Fife’s performance against the 12-week treatment time guarantee and could provide additional capacity for patients from neighbouring health boards to help reduce their waiting times.

NHS Fife chief executive Paul Hawkins said: "As the demand for cataract surgery increases, it was important that we invested in our ophthalmology service if we were to continue to deliver the high standard of care our patients expect.

“The addition of our new ‘Jack and Jill’ theatre will enable our ophthalmology service to meet this demand, and to continue to do so by creating a more sustainable model of care moving forward.

“Most importantly, patients are the ultimate beneficiaries of the changes made to service. The new set-up will reduce waiting times and ensure all cataract patients in Fife can be seen locally.”