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Over half of parents have not booked an eye test for their child since the start of the pandemic

Eye care charity Orbis is urging parents to take their child to the optometrist ahead of the new academic year

trial frames on young boy
Getty/standret
Over half (54%) of parents have not booked an eye test for their child since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly 18 months ago, according to data released yesterday (26 August).

The research, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by international eye care charity, Orbis, also found that 24% of parents are unsure if their child’s eyesight has worsened in this time.

The poll surveyed 2025 British adults, 373 of whom were parents with children under the age of 18.

70% of those surveyed, including half of all parents with a child under 18, were not aware of NHS recommendations that state that children should have an eye test at the age of four or five.

As the new school term approaches, and with an increase in children’s use of digital devices in recent months, Orbis is urging parents to book eye tests for their children as a priority.

Larry Benjamin, a retired consultant ophthalmologist and a medical volunteer with Orbis, said: “The pandemic has been a challenge for all of us and it’s understandable parents have avoided health visits.

“But with so many children in Britain not seeing an optician, it is important that parents try to book eye tests for their children where possible.”

An international crisis

Whilst children in Britain are missing eye tests, Orbis wants to emphasise the risks posed to children in low-income countries too.

The poll marks the two-year anniversary of the charity’s See My Future UK Aid Match appeal, which works to fight avoidable blindness amongst children in Nepal.

Sneha
Sneha, aged 12, was supported with an eye test and glasses by Orbis in Nepal after struggling in school
Globally, 1.1 billion people experience vision loss, and 90% of this is avoidable. In Nepal, avoidable vision loss often causes children to drop out of school – either because their own eye health is poor, or because they need to care for a blind or visually impaired family member.

Orbis works the remote southeast of the country, screening and treating children with vision loss through its Refractive Error Among Children (REACH) initiative.

The See My Future appeal in 2019 raised almost £1.4 million for the REACH project, including over £650,000 of match funding from the UK Government.

The funds have enabled almost 72,000 children to have eye screenings, reaching 213 schools and delivering treatments and training for eye health workers so they can identify vision issues.

In 2020 the project adapted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, working with local female community health volunteers to deliver at-home screenings whilst schools were closed. This saw 1000 more children, who do not normally attend school, have their eyes tested for the first time.

Rebecca Cronin, chief executive of Orbis UK, said: “In many areas of the world where Orbis works, undiagnosed sight loss can have devastating consequences, plunging families into poverty.

“Like NHS and High Street eye care teams, our eye health partners around the world have risen to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, delivering eye care in remote parts of the world and adhering to local guidelines to ensure patient safety.

“Even before the pandemic, the need for specialist eye doctors was already outpacing the numbers of trained experts in ophthalmic care.”

She added: “It’s clear the work of Orbis is more vital than ever.”

Orbis is now calling on its supporters to help raise money so it can help more people who are at risk of avoidable blindness. To find out how to donate, visit the Orbis website.