Going private for KeratoconusPublished 13/01/2015
In the UK the majority of people who suffer from keratoconus are usually seen within the NHS. The main reason for this is that keratoconus as a condition is covered by both Ophthalmology (Diagnosis, monitoring and potentially surgery) and Optometry (prescribing of Contact Lenses). One of the biggest complaints we hear from our patients is that system is overloaded, with many of them having to wait months at a time to be seen, and hence they opted to go privately. Below is a guide to going private:
One of the real benefits of having the condition managed privately is that there are non of the long waiting times associated with having the problem looked at in the Health service. At most times of the year we are able to provide appointments with a little as 24 hours notice, and at worst there would be a 2 week wait. This also makes managing your keratoconus easier, because we aren't under as much pressure to get it right first time, meaning we can tweak and tinker with the lenses to get the perfect balance of vision and comfort.
One of the really great things about the NHS system is that the Optometrists you see are often very knowledgable about the condition and more specifically the fitting of the lenses. Another good thing is that keratoconus management in the NHS is rarely a full time job, so most of the Optometrists work full time in private practice, so in some cases you will see the same people, just quicker.
When you visit the hospital your corneas will normally be scanned using something called a topographer (the thing thats gives us those lovely coloured 'maps' of your cornea) this lets your consultant see how your cornea is changing. However when it comes to fitting the lenses there is a real benefit to scanning the eyes before / after / during the fitting, it gives us an edge on getting the right fit. When you chose to get your keratoconus managed privately most optometrists will scan your eyes at every opportunity.
The NHS generally provides patients with RGP lenses to manage their vision. Whilst RGPs are a great solution for many patients, there are some people who don't get on with them whether it be due to comfort or vision quality. The options available privately are much, much more diverse. For example there are over 70 different designs of RGP, soft lenses designed for keratoconus, Large diameter RGPS, Hybrid designs (soft lens with an rgp in the middle), Scleral lenses and piggybacking systems available.
What about the progression of my keratoconus?
As mentioned earlier there are two aspects to the NHS's management of the condition: The progression and the management. By going privately you are only replacing the management aspect, so you will still need to attend the Hospital to see your consultant, just not the Optometrist. From the Ophthalmologists point of view its great because you will be getting topography done every six months, whereas some people in the NHS may only be having it done every 2 years, so any rapid progression would be picked up when you have your regular check-ups.
What about the cost?
Most keratoconic patients will be surprised to learn that getting your keratoconus managed privately isn't as expensive as you might think, and the vast majority of people will be paying less than someone who wears Daily disposbale contact lenses for example. There are of course fitting fees involved (roughly £100 per eye) but these are a one off payment.
by Alex Wade Bsc(Hons) MCOptom