Special schools service

Following 3 years in development, the NHS England funded Special School Eye Care Service is due to commence in the North West from May 2021.

This brand new service provides sight tests and the dispensing of glasses on school premises for every child with a learning disability and/or autism attending a special school in England.

Bespoke training sessions have been developed for optometrists and dispensing opticians (DOs) in conjunction with SeeAbility, and ABDO is actively engaged with NHS England in the development of a new one-day training course for DOs that will focus on dispensing for children with special facial characteristics (further details to follow).

In support of this service, NHS England is also introducing a new dispensing order and supply model which does not require the use of GOS optical vouchers and enables DOs to order spectacles from a comprehensive range of specialist frames without any commercial influence or consideration. This means DOs can choose the most appropriate frames and lenses for every child and the invoicing process will be managed solely by NHS England.

The roll-out of this proof of concept phase of the service is being managed on a regional basis with the North East and London regions next in line.

When this project was trialled 200 children had their sight tested; 45% of the children presented with significant visual defect which had not been previously identified or addressed.  The service included dispensing spectacles followed by observations of the child in the classroom environment to measure any change in learning and behaviour of the child. Potentially, this now enables every autistic and learning disabled student in these schools to be able to participate in the full education experience.

Dispensing children with complex needs is a real challenge but there are strategies that can make it a successful and rewarding process. Watch this fascinating video to find out how dispensing opticians and optometrists are making a difference to children who attend special schools. The video gives you an overview of the services delivered in special schools and will, we hope, provides you with the appetite to learn more and join us on the webinar. Although there is some overlapping material, we recommend also watching the schools’ film which will provide a fuller picture of the positive impact of the service.

Find out more

Once clinicians have been appointed, they will undertake a period of training to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to commence the service.  Quality of service delivery and continuity of clinicians is a fundamental requirement for the programme’s success so the training programme is a vital part of the process.  These clinicians are then ‘matched’ with schools.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have the responsibility for commissioning and delivering the service through an appointed network of clinicians. DOs who are interested in becoming providers should contact NHS England and NHS Improvement at: england.specialschooleyecareservice@nhs.net