A letter has been sent to Simon Stevens at the NHS Executive from the three All Party Parliamentary Groups on eye health, learning disability and ending homelessness to criticise the current NHS sight testing system for seldom heard groups. The aim of the letter, which follows the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment investigation into access to sight tests and glasses among seldom heard groups, is to change the national funding, structures and contracting mechanisms for NHS sight tests, which, it found, are directly generating inequalities in eye care for vulnerable groups.
It flags the higher incidence of eye problems both for people with learning disabilities and for homeless people, stating, “In many cases, the sight problems and suffering experienced are totally avoidable and preventable, often there is simply a need for the right spectacles.” The APPGs also acknowledge the “huge disparity” between the NHS sight test fee and what it actually costs to deliver a sight test to someone with severe learning disabilities, alongside the fact the people with learning disabilities and homeless people are not specifically exempt from the sight test fee.
The letter highlighted the work of Vision Care for Homeless People, which has carried out over 12,000 eye examinations, and SeeAbility, which has delivered over 1000 sight tests in special schools. The APPGs are calling for a review of the current system and national reforms to make NHS sight testing services more accessible and identifiable.