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A team effort

As we head towards winter, marking National Eye Health Week has never been more important

cycling
Getty/enisaksoy

As National Eye Health Week approaches and the Government reveals its winter plan to continue protecting the public against COVID-19, now seems like a good time to reflect again on the vital work that those within the optical sector provide.

This week, Specsavers released its State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021 report, which detailed a drop of 4.3 million eye tests in 2020 – a fall of 23% on the previous year. It’s estimated that the number of glaucoma referrals dropped by 43,000 in the same period, while there were 316,000 fewer ophthalmology referrals overall between March and December 2020. Even for those who are well aware that patient numbers were impacted by COVID-19, these statistics are startling.

At the same time, the Government set out its winter plans to fight COVID-19 – something that has had a massive impact across the optical sector and healthcare services more widely over the past 18 months. Responding to the plan, the AOP emphasised how vital optometry is in COVID-19 recovery, with chief executive, Adam Sampson, pointing out how AOP members “have stepped up to support the NHS in delivering vital eyecare to patients – freeing up capacity across NHS departments.”

In this slightly fraught context, marking National Eye Health Week 2021 (20 – 26 September) seems more pertinent that ever. The week offers a great opportunity to remind patients about the importance of eye tests for their wider health, including how regular visits to the optometrist can identify issues such as high blood pressure and diabetic retinopathy alongside diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

The optical industry is already ahead of the game. Allegro Optical, which has practices in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, is sharing its healthy living tips with patients, whilst occupational healthcare provider Corazon Health has created a document that includes links to a number of useful resources, including an explanatory video from the AOP. 

Also in Yorkshire, local charity ABA Leeds is sharing National Eye Health Week resources with those who use its services. In Leicestershire, Vista, the charity for people with sight loss, is running drop-in events throughout the week, including mobile support services and activity days for children and parents.

Meanwhile, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust has created a behind the scenes video of its ophthalmology department, emphasising the importance of regular check-ups and explaining in simple terms the work they do. 

Chair of Eye Health UK, David Cartwright, has emphasised that National Eye Health Week this year is more important than ever, adding that “the more it gets picked up by optical practices the better, because it raises the profile of eye health and optical practices.” That, of course, is something that everyone across the sector wants.

To get involved, download National Eye Health Week resources for your practice from the Vision Matters website or keep up to date by emailing [email protected]

If you’re celebrating National Eye Health Week, feel free to tag us on Twitter and Instagram and remember to include the hashtags #VisionMatters and #EyeWeek to make sure you’re involved in the conversation.

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