WAITING times for patients awaiting cataract surgery in Taunton could be drastically cut, according to a company hoping to open an eye clinic on the edge of the town.

SpaMedica has applied for change of use planning permission to open in Portland House a building housing offices at Deane Gate Avenue.

The company operates nationally in the healthcare sector, providing ophthalmology services as a partner of choice for the NHS. It is one of the larger providers of cataract surgery in the UK and undertakes more than 200,000 eye surgeries per year, most of which are for the NHS.

In a submission to Somerset Council, a representative says a SpaMedica hospital nearby "significantly reduces referral to treat times from the NHS average of 280 days to 42 days".

If the council approves the plans, the business would create a range of skilled and specialist jobs equating to 20 full-time equivalent clinical staff, who work four days out of seven. The staff include ophthalmologists, a clinic manager, specialist nurses, medical receptionist, housekeepers and a driver.

The site could become operational within weeks if permission is granted.

The submission says: "This facility will treat up to a maximum of 50 patients per day.

"These will only comprise pre-booked day cases with no overnight stays or walk-in/emergency facilities.

"The proposed hours of operation will be from 7.30am to 6.30pm, seven days a week.

"Appointments will also be offered on bank holidays.

"On very rare occasions the use of the theatre may be required outside of these hours, requiring 24-hour access, to deal with patient complications should they arise."

It adds: "The site benefits from good access by public transport and has 43 allocated parking spaces on site for patients and staff.

"SpaMedica also operate free patient transport where they employ a driver who picks up patients unable to access the facility by other means in a minibus.

"The minibus is stored offsite at the driver’s place of residence.

"Patient visits are spread out by appointment throughout the day."