Objective: To evaluate the effects of the Maximum Waiting-time Guarantee (MWG) policy for cataract surgery on volume, indications, waiting times and priority setting in Sweden. Methods: Comparison between 1993 and 1994, when the guarantee had been in force for one year, and 1998 and 1999, when the policy had been terminated for one year. Data from the National Cataract Registry covering 156,657 cataract operations for the years studied. Results: The number of operations increased by 43% between the two study periods. Of this increase, 61% were patients with a visual acuity above 0.5 in the better eye, i.e. low-priority patients. Waiting times were longer for all patient categories in the later period and differences in waiting times between patients with differing priority diminished. Variations among the units in priority setting and waiting times were substantial, and increased after the Guarantee was terminated.
Conclusions: The Guarantee with its explicit indications was an effective policy instrument to limit waiting times and improve access for patients with the greatest need. It is unlikely that the Guarantee caused any 'crowding out' of other patient groups. When the Guarantee was not in force, indications for surgery widened. This, however, resulted in longer waiting times for all patient groups. After the Guarantee was terminated, the already substantial differences in access and indications among ophthalmic units became even greater.
2007. Vol. 12, no 1, 5-10 p.