Time to focus on research, says charity

Sight loss is costing the UK economy £25.2bn a year, according to a new research report launched today (16 September) by Fight for Sight.

The charity is predicting this figure will rise to £33.5bn by 2050 unless more cash is directed into research.

The comprehensive research study entitled, Time to focus, has highlighted the rising tide of people experiencing sight loss in the UK – and the huge personal impact and wider costs to society, which have escalated during Covid-19. The launch is being supported by celebrities whose lives have been impacted by sight loss, including former England footballer Michael Owen whose son has Stargardt disease.

Working with academics at the London School of Economics and other partners, Fight for Sight has developed and made accessible a flexible costing model for governments, health planners and providers. It shows the potential future cost of sight loss by area – and how reducing prevalence through investment in research and prevention could make vast savings.

Using the new costing tool based on a review of more than 350 academic papers, the charity has shown that reducing the prevalence of eye conditions by just one per cent a year could avoid costs to the UK economy of up to £3.1bn by 2030 and £9.5bn by 2050, including £1.5bn in savings for the NHS and social care services.

The charity says costs to the NHS and social equate to £3.9bn a year, with eye conditions now responsible for 10 per cent of all hospital outpatient appointments. These costs have been compounded by the pandemic due to delays in accessing treatment.

Fight for Sight is calling for urgent investment in eye research which, it argues, would transform lives and take pressure off an already stretched healthcare system. The report also recommends that health service commissioners and providers focus on prevention of sight loss and take a holistic approach.

The chief executive of Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause, said: “This landmark report puts sight loss in the UK into focus and shows the huge financial, social and emotional cost it is having on individuals and society. But the true cost of sight loss is a personal one that can’t be measured in pounds and pence.

“Science offers so many possibilities to transform lives and there are breakthroughs happening every day. Eye research is more important than ever in the age of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, and our report shows how investing in research upfront will actually make huge savings for the NHS and for the wider economy in the longer term.”

Read the report in full on the Fight for Sight website, www.fightforsight.org.uk