Half term health checks

With the Easter break upon us, has your patient demographic changed in the last 12 months?

baby's hand

As daffodils flower along the paths where I take my daily exercise, I am reminded that Spring has now sprung and Easter is just around the corner. Paired with Easter is of course the associated long-weekend and school half-term holiday.

Normally by this time in the school calendar, many children would be counting down the days until they don’t have to set their alarm. However, with most children having only recently returned to the school environment following lockdown 3.0, I wonder whether the prospect of time off for some has become a little underwhelming?

As a child, my half term activities, alongside seeing friends and family, would normally include a health MOT, with trips to the dentist and optometrists scheduled.

Last month OT reported on the backlog in children’s vision screening that had amassed after this service was not performed for much of 2020 as school doors remained shut by the pandemic. In its February report, the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning released a series of recommendations suggesting that parents of children who started their reception year in 2019 or 2020 and missed out on vision screening should take their child for an NHS sight test. 

This morning I was reminded of just how important vision is to learning, when I read a story by a colleague about the Department for Education-funded Glasses in Classes pilot. The project involved teachers being informed which pupils at 100 schools in Bradford had failed their eye test, with these children then provided with a pair of spectacles for home and another pair for school. Early results of the pilot indicated an improvement in literacy levels.

The Department for Education is now considering expanding the pilot to reach a 1000 more school children.

With half-term approaching, have you noticed a change in the number of children booked in for a sight test this year?

While I may not be going for a sight test during the Easter break this year, I will no doubt, weather-pending, be enjoying an outside picnic or a garden BBQ and visiting businesses on my local High Street to source the goods.

I, along with many others, during the last year have opted to shop more locally and support neighbourhood businesses when I can. On my local High Street there is a spattering of cafes, a family butcher, a hardware store and an opticians. I have seen queues outside all of these over the last 12 months.

In the last month I have had the privilege of speaking to not one, but three relatively new practice business owners and have been heartened to hear that the trend for staying local has been positively impacting practices too.

Most recently I spoke to an optometrist who has this month become a business owner in partnership with her husband, purchasing a practice she attended as a child. While she acknowledged that buying a practice during the pandemic had come with challenges, they have focused on the opportunities that it offers. “We realised that a lot of people are staying local and this is something that we see as a massive opportunity for us,” she said, sharing that the practice is based on a community High Street and has had an influx of new patients over the last 12 months. You will be able to read more about this story in a future Becoming a business owner feature.

So, while it will have been a tough year for many across the profession, it’s good to hear that buds of positivity are now opening up.

OT  asks...

Has the number of children presenting for sight tests in your practice fallen over the last 12 months?


  • Yes, I rarely see children now

    7 17%
  • Yes, but only a little

    9 21%
  • No, it’s roughly the same

    15 36%
  • No, it’s risen

    10 24%