Improving eye health and reducing sight loss, a ‘Call to Action’

Patients, professionals and the public are being invited to have their say by NHS England, in a debate around the provision of eye health services.

‘The NHS belongs to us all: a call to action’ was launched last July and set out the challenges faced by the NHS; those of an ageing population with complex conditions against a backdrop of financial constraints. Since then, separate ‘call to action’ engagements have been held for general practice, community pharmacy and NHS dental services. The final strand of the campaign will focus on improving eye health and the provision of NHS eye health services. The consultation will run until 12 September 2014.

Many long term conditions, such as diabetes and dementia, pose a significant risk to eye health. The projected increase in the elderly population and the number of people with multiple long term conditions has a knock on effect on long term planning for eye care. If not tackled properly, poor provision at a primary care level is likely to increase pressures elsewhere in the health and social care system.

It’s estimated that partial sight and blindness in adults costs the UK economy around £22 billion per year. This final ‘Call to Action’ will focus on a more preventative approach, early accurate detection by primary care services and effective management in the community.

To achieve that NHS England wants the public, patients, and professionals to engage with the ‘call to action’ and help review the current system to inform and develop a long term sustainable plan.

NHS England is aware that particular groups can experience difficulties in accessing appropriate health care services including eye health services. These include people with mental health issues; frail, elderly people; people with physical or learning disabilities and homeless people.

Dr Mike Bewick, NHS England’s Deputy Medical Director, said: “Preventing eye disease and promoting early detection of eye disease through improved access and uptake for routine eye tests are key components of this call to action. Ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate care at the most appropriate time and in the most appropriate location is also vital.”

Anita Lightstone, UK Vision Strategy Programme Director and VISION 2020 UK Chief Operations Officer, said: “We are delighted to welcome the consultation ‘Improving Eye Care – A Call to Action’ and congratulate NHS England on providing this much needed spotlight on eye care. We encourage all stakeholders involved in receiving or delivering eye care to have their say so we can work together to ensure the needs of eye care patients and people with sight loss can be met now and in the future”.

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  1. valerie haylor says:

    Patients having timely access to appropriate therapies is crucial to halt loss of sight and maintain quality of life. This is recognised for conditions appraised through NICE but subspecialties – where patients nationally are not large numbers – such as Uveitis and Ocular Oncology need clearer funding pathways. Funding of biologics for such patients is via IFRs and the system is fraught with inconsistencies. Patients deserve transparency.

    Raising compliance with use of eye drops – primarily for glaucoma patients – is crucial if individuals are to benefit from prescribed therapy. Glaucoma passport – hand held book – ensuring when visiting optometrist, pharmacist or GP appropriate use of therapy is discussed. Adding chronic open angle glaucoma to the list of conditions for which pharmacists are funded to carry out MURs is essential to raise compliance levels – which from latest Glaucoma Assocatioin survey is no greater than 50%.

  2. WM says:

    I am aware of many people who do not have regular sight tests despite needing glasses because of the expense. Many prescriptions and up with lens costs over £300 even when using inexpensive frames (e.g. varifocal). This for many people is over a week’s wages and help with the costs is not available to all.
    Optical and Dental services going almost entirely private has led to many conditions being detected late due to people’s reluctance or inability to pay. Ultimately this increases costs as rather than a simple curable condition, people progress to more complex disease.

  3. Mike Cosgrove says:

    given the supply and demand issues of eye health, focus needs to be put on consolidating the supply chain and “loading” the front end at opticians’ practices so that more problems such as the onset of glaucoma in an aging population can be dealt with more effectively than the current process where the optician sees a pateint, sends details to the GP who sends them on to the hospital opthomologist, thereby creating a larger queque and potentail backlog.

    whether more electornic self help can be introuduced, similar to blood pressure monitoring machines, is an interesting question. Having renewed my passport and gone to a electronic eye recognition booth; it would seem feasable.

  4. juliet mayer says:

    Action is needed to ensure that disabled young adults with several disabilities, including autism, get annual eye checks in an environment they can access…usually not the local optometrist with other patients. Blindness, as a result of no accessible eye tests costs sight, leads to yet more disability and demands on NHS , costs more money and is scandalous.
    Suggestion: eye checks for this group and, for those with pre existing eye conditions to be done if necessary under sedation. Have special clinic or optometrist visit , for example, any day centre accessed by those people to enable a pre-screening to identify those at risk and to ENSURE treatment. Dedicated clinic is probably sensible complete with staff who know how to approach those with autism and similar conditions where extreme fear of health services can make it hard formthem to settle quickly.

  5. Anne Richardson says:

    To tackle future eye health need more effectively, it is essential to make better use of the clinical skills of community optometrists who for many patients are the first port of call for eye problems. We already have the skills, equipment and premises to provide more extended services also there is a track record of these services being successfully provided under the NHS in both Scotland and Wales, where savings to the Health Service have been achieved, along with more efficient and convenient provision for patients. Better communication, co-operation and understanding between primary and secondary care would also help

  6. alice sloan says:

    I agree that is can be difficult for those to access eye tests however i think a bigger problem are Opticians like Specsavers making eye tests even faster to make more money.

    All Optometrists that I have spoken to agree that older people need longer eye tests. It is not realistic that a good eye test can be done on an elderly patient in twenty minutes or even 15 minutes!!

    The NHS should enforce a rule that an elderly patient for example over 60 should be given a minimum eye test time slot of thirty minutes.

    thank you

  7. Julian Cragg says:

    there should be self testing and drop in booths where eye health can be monitored and checked just as BMI and weight loss can be.

  8. AM says:

    Is there a specific place to leave feedback for the consultation? I can only find a place to leave feedback for the call to action, nothing specific related to eye health/sight loss. Thanks.