Governments in Wales, England, and Northern Ireland (NI) need to act now on the eyecare postcode lottery and have the same routine and emergency eye health care for people across the UK according to the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO). ABDO is calling for action on the 21st anniversary of the launch of Vision 2020, a World Health Organisation (WHO) global initiative to eliminate the cause of preventable and treatable blindness as a public health issue by the year 2020.
The Scottish Government prioritised eye health in 2006 and since then has revolutionised care to enable prevention and early intervention in the fight to eliminate avoidable blindness. Clive Marchant FBDO, President of ABDO says, “On the anniversary of the Vision 2020 initiative it is disappointing that England, Wales and Northern Ireland are failing to follow Scotland and offer a universally NHS funded comprehensive service to catch treatable eye conditions at an early stage. Action now could not only save people’s sight but also save the NHS and Social Care significant amounts of money.”
He continues, “We are calling for further investment in General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) so it and our optical workforce can be used to their full potential to prevent avoidable sight loss throughout the rest of the UK. Getting the right eye care at the right time from the right clinician is important from the cradle to the grave. We would like to see everyone have access to /NHS funded regular eye examinations from pre-school onwards to give everyone the best start in life. The risk of eye disease grows as you get older, and it is vital for eye disease and the need for spectacles to be detected as early as possible which can only be done by regular eye health checks. Scotland is leading the way here.”
Attendance at A&E costs the NHS more to deliver eye care than it does if it is delivered locally by optical practices. 1 If a national eye care service, like Scotland has, was rolled out across the UK it could save millions for the NHS and prevent avoidable sight loss in the UK.
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- ABDO represents over 6000 qualified dispensing opticians in the United Kingdom. Registered office, 199, Gloucester Terrace, London W2 6LD.
- ABDO will be raising this issue on radio stations across the UK on 18th
- While everyone in Scotland has access to NHS funded comprehensive eyecare from community optical practices (including unscheduled care, for any eye problems, at no cost to patients2 ), people in England, Wales and NI are only able to access regular eye health care if they are within a certain age group, have diabetes, or glaucoma, or a family history of glaucoma, or a low income. Anyone outside these categories does not qualify for an NHS regulated sight test. 3
- Cost has been identified as a barrier to people accessing care.4 The fully funded Scottish system enables optical practices to be the first port of call for eyes, saving patients attending their GP, Pharmacist or accident and emergency departments (A&E).
- In Wales, England and NI only people living in areas, with Minor Eye Conditions Schemes (MECS – a locally arranged service for eye problems) can receive eye care/treatment for eye problems they experience. Anyone not living in an area with MECS need to present to their GP, Pharmacist or A&E which can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis depending on the health care professional they see, if they do not get attended to by a dispensing optician, contact lens optician, optometrist or ophthalmologist who are the experts in eye care.