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Friday, April 24, 1998 Published at 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK


Pensioner eyes up India treatment

A British pensioner frustrated by the long waiting list for a cataract operation on the National Health Service flew to India for 20 minutes of eye surgery.

Noel Martin, 70, bought a £330 flight to India and booked himself into the Porwal clinic at Ajmer, 300 miles south of Delhi, after being told he faced an 18-month wait for treatment at his local hospital.

Noel Martin says he could not wait any longer (0'24")
Doctors in India charged Mr Martin £60 for the cataract operation, a further £30 to have a lens replaced and £5 for an overnight stay for him and his wife Sylvia in a private room.

The treatment would have cost up to £3,000 at a private hospital in the UK.

Mr Martin returned home to Chertsey, Surrey, saying he was so delighted with the treatment he would return to India if he ever needs another operation.

"The wait was too long and my eyes were getting pretty bad. If we waited any longer it might have got beyond repair," he added.

[ image: Noel Martin could only read the top line of the eye test]
Noel Martin could only read the top line of the eye test
"I could only see the letter H - the top line - on the doctor's (eye test) board."

"I just feel sorry for the poor people who can't go," said Mr Martin. "I haven't got anything against the hospitals here.

"It's one law if you have got money, and another if you haven't."

Jenny Griffiths, chief executive of Mr Martin's local health authority, West Surrey, said she was not proud of the area's record.

"This is certainly very unusual. Our contracts are for a maximum wait of 18 months. Urgent cases will be seen sooner.

"Patients must not fear they will go blind on our waiting lists.

"We are not proud of having waiting lists of up to 18 months.

"We would be absolutely thrilled if we had waiting lists of just a couple of weeks."

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22 Mar 98†|†UK
Action demanded on NHS waiting lists

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Internet Links

NHS Performance Guide 1996-97

American Institute of Ophthalmology: Cataracts

West Surrey Health Authority

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