It is estimated there are about two million people living with sight loss in the UK today. The difficulties they experience range from reading a newspaper to severe visual impairment. Within this number, visual impairment affects about 10 per cent of those aged 65 to 75, and 20 per cent aged 75 and over.
In 2017, there were just shy of 12 million people aged 65 years and over. Indeed, a 2016 government survey, titled ‘The future of an ageing population’, predicted that by 2040, nearly one in seven people would be aged 75 and over. As eye health care providers, we cannot ignore these statistics.
Before the pandemic, low vision services throughout the UK were inconsistent; some countries provide this in secondary care, some via charities and others by community optical practices.
The Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) in England recently conducted a survey highlighting the need for change. It recommended that low vision services be included in system recovery and transformation planning. As dispensing opticians, low vision is one our core competencies so we are well placed to help with this.
We can help patients to live independently at home by providing advice on lighting, adaptations, low vision aids and IT. If this service is available in local communities, it will not only be easily accessible for the patient but it will also free capacity in secondary care in some areas.
ABDO has been working with CCEHC in England and together, we have asked NHS England to consider the results of the aforementioned survey with a view to delivering a national low vision service within England. We are also working with the Scottish government on implementing a national low vision service and are happy to see more DOs in Wales participating in their national low vision service.
I urge you and your practice team to update yourselves with all the latest information, and get involved if there is a low vision service in your area. There are many CPD articles and webinars available, along with advice about business models that your practice can benefit from.
We cannot be complacent; we all have the knowledge, location and means we need to make a difference for people with low vision.