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Last Updated: Monday, 7 June, 2004, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
Patients get 'private' eye ops
The government hopes private firms will help to cut waiting times
A private firm has begun carrying out National Health Service eye operations in Cumbria.

More than 70 patients will undergo cataract operations at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

South African health company Netcare is using a mobile clinic to carry out the operations.

The government has signed a deal with Netcare to carry out 41,600 cataract operations at several sites throughout the UK over the next five years.

A mobile clinic will be based at the Cumberland Infirmary until the end of June.

Surgery will be carried out towards the end of the month in the mobile Eye Unit, which is fully equipped with an operating theatre and rest rooms.

NHS patients

It is sited next to the old Tower Block building on the Cumberland Infirmary site.

Patients will be called back in mid-July for further check ups.

The government has been accused of bullying NHS officials into using private firms to treat patients.

Some NHS bosses have been against using private health firms to treat NHS patients.

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The Department of Health makes no apologies for encouraging the NHS to take up innovative and successful schemes.

"Thousands of patients have had their cataract operations more quickly, free at the point of need, as a result of this deal."

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