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When you undergo laser eye surgery, you have to put your trust in your ophthalmologist. But do you know how qualified they are to perform the procedure, and whether they abide by industry regulations? 

Let’s take a closer look at the standards required for laser eye surgery in the UK – and what you can do to ensure your surgeon is well qualified for the job.

Regulation in the industry

You might be surprised to learn that the only legal requirement to practise laser eye surgery is to be qualified as a medical doctor. Voluntary standards developed by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ Refractive Surgical Standards Working Group (RSSWG) have been published by the General Medical Council (GMC) for laser eye surgery centres, but no regulation is enforced.

That means some laser eye surgery centres may not adopt these practices – which makes it really important for patients to check individual surgeons’ qualifications and backgrounds for themselves.

What do the voluntary standards say?

eye

The Professional Standards for Refractive Surgery, published in 2017, outline the knowledge and skills that your surgeon should be able to demonstrate, and also dictate minimum standards for safety, honesty in financial dealings and continuity of care. They say that surgeons should, among other things:

  • Hold a Certificate in Refractive Laser Surgery (CertRLS) from the Royal College of Ophthalmology (RCOPhth) or be on the GMC Specialist Register in Ophthalmology.
  • Complete at least 50 hours of refractive surgery-related training, or continued professional development (CPD) every year.
  • Seek patient feedback and undergo regular appraisals based on this.

Laser eye surgeons who don’t meet these minimum standards may not have any specialist training at all in refractive surgery. High Street practices in particular often employ surgeons who have, worryingly, not completed full UK ophthalmic training. So, even though laser eye surgery from these centres may be cheaper, it may come with a higher degree of risk.

How do you know if your laser eye surgeon has the right experience and qualifications?

Your surgeon’s level of experience and their qualifications are directly related to the risk of complications in surgery. So, for the safest and lowest-risk results, it’s important to choose a laser eye surgeon who is well-qualified, well-respected and with lots of experience.

  • Ask your surgeon if they have the CertRLS qualification, and if they’re a registered ophthalmologist.
  • Are they newly qualified? How many years of experience do they have?
  • Do they come highly recommended? Ask for patient testimonials.
  • Ask for statistics on their laser eye surgery outcomes and compare this to other clinics.
  • Refer to our useful blog on what to look for when choosing your laser eye surgeon.

Helping to maintain industry standards

Eye examination following contact lens issues

Allon Barsam has recently been appointed to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists examinations committee, where he helps to write the laser eye surgery examinations that individuals must pass in order to meet the voluntary RCOphth standards.

His message to the public is:

“Much work is done to set and maintain standards in the industry. By choosing a laser eye surgeon who adheres to the Professional Standards for Refractive Surgery, you can be assured that your surgery will be performed safely, in a regulated environment.”

Read more about Allon Barsam’s expertise and qualifications.