Swallowing Professional Pride

Training non-doctors to perform cataract surgery is an obvious approach to tackle cataract blindness

By John Sandford-Smith, emeritus Consultant Ophthalmologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, UK.

March 2018

Untreated cataract remains the most common cause of blindness in all low-income countries, as well as many middle-income countries. Why, when it is easily, cheaply and quickly treated with good results?

In the developing world, where there may be barely one ophthalmologist for 1 million people, the bulk of surgeries become cataract surgeries. But this is not enough to eradicate cataract blindness, and our likely failure to eradicate treatable blindness by 2020 shows that the situation is under-resourced. In my view, the obvious solution is to train non-doctors (such as nurses). Many people have suggested this approach, and some countries, mostly in Africa, have accepted it. There are many advantages of training non-doctor cataract surgeons: