Whillans, J. & Nazroo, J. (2014) Equal access, (Un)equal uptake: a longitudinal study of cataract surgery uptake in older people in England, BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14, pp. 447.


Background: Uptake of cataract removal is a function of the effectiveness of the healthcare delivery services: services that are inaccessible, inappropriate, or unaffordable will not be utilised by (sub)populations, who consequently live with untreated cataracts. The aim of the study was to identify the relationship between individual wealth inequalities and uptake of cataract surgery in England, having controlled for the effects of potentially confounding variables.

Methods: The final sample comprised of 2091 respondents from the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ELSA) who were diagnosed with cataracts prior to or during the study, aged 50 and over at wave 1, who had not undergone cataract surgery prior to the first survey observation, and had also provided a response in the second wave of the study. The uptake of cataract surgery was measured using the question, have you ever had cataract surgery? Data from waves 1-5 were used to identify those having received treatment during the 8-year observation window of ELSA. Survival analysis techniques were used.

Results: Having controlled for the effects of potentially confounding variables, wealth did not make a statistically significant contribution to the overall fit of the Cox proportional hazard model nor were individual parameters statistically significant. Thus, respondents’ socioeconomic position was not found to be a significant predictor in the uptake of cataract surgery in the UK. Receiving a recommendation from a medical professional was a key driving factors in the uptake of cataract surgery.

Conclusions: Study findings suggest that uptake of cataract surgery among over 50s with a cataracts diagnosis in England do not discriminate on the grounds of individuals’ material social position (wealth).

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