The Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme has appointed a third clinician to join its clinical leadership team for ophthalmology, supporting trusts and systems to meet surgical demand as part of the NHS’ elective recovery drive.
Jonathan (Jon) Bhargava, a consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, joins Alison Davis and Lydia Chang as GIRFT clinical leads for ophthalmology. He replaces Professor Dame Caroline MacEwen, who left the programme in 2021 to become acting chair of the General Medical Council (GMC).
Mr Bhargava has been a consultant ophthalmologist since 2008, and specialises in safe and efficient cataract surgery. He was the chair of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ (RCOphth) Cataract Workforce Guidance Committee when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and was heavily involved with designing COVID-safe pathways which were endorsed by RCOphth to enable a return to operating during the pandemic.
As chair, he also provided streamlined clinical pathways for cataract surgery and enabled workforce planning for the next 10 years to help meet increasing surgical demand.
He joins GIRFT at a busy time for the eye care team – ophthalmology is one of the six specialties in GIRFT’s high volume low complexity (HVLC) programme, which engages Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and regions to work at pace to agree standardised pathways and adopt best practice to deliver excellent clinical outcomes and equity of access to care for their population. The HVLC programme also supports the establishment of fast track surgical hubs for high-volume procedures, and helps partners to agree system-wide theatre principles and efficiencies.
Recent developments in GIRFT’s ophthalmology workstream have included the development of High Flow Cataract Surgery guidance, highlighting practical steps for developing high flow cataract services within hospitals, and the publication of key ophthalmology metrics on the Model Health System to help trusts and systems benchmark their performance against their peers in areas which can support NHS recovery.
Mr Bhargava said: “I am delighted to be joining the GIRFT team at this critical time.
“This is an exciting opportunity to optimise and streamline treatment pathways, which ultimately aim to provide the gold standard of patient care in a sustainable manner, enabling us to meet demand for years to come.”
Professor Tim Briggs, Chair of the GIRFT programme and National Director of Clinical Improvement for NHS England and NHS Improvement, added: “I am very happy to welcome Jon to the GIRFT team at a time when the focus is firmly on recovering elective surgery and making sure our patients can have their operations more quickly.
“Establishing surgical hubs will play a big part in increasing NHS capacity for more sight-saving cataract surgery, and Jon’s arrival in the team will help us to drive forward our work in that area.”