NEHW 2023: raising awareness of eye health
OT gathers a selection of the sector’s plans for recognising National Eye Health Week
19 September 2023
National Eye Health Week (NEHW) is underway, promoting the importance of regular eye tests through a series of themes and activities.
Taking place over seven days between 18 – 24 September, the campaign includes daily themes, ranging from NHS eligibility to myopia.
Speaking to OT, David Cartwright, chair of Eye Health UK, the organisation leading National Eye Health Week, described the week as “an opportunity to highlight the importance of eye health, what people can do to improve and enhance their eye health, and to raise the profile of routine sight tests.”
NEHW 2023 themes wrap-up
- NHS Eye Care and Support
- Myopia and Me
- Digital Eye Care
- Eye on Mental Health
- Live Well, See Well
- Vision Matters Photographic Competition and Exhibition
- Smoking and Sight Loss
Read more about the themes here.
OT heard from charities, companies and optometrists about plans for NEHW.
20 years of Vision Care for Homeless People
Janice English, trustee of VCHP, said the charity was grateful for initiatives that raise the importance of eye care in the public conscience, adding: “So often, good vision is taken for granted.”
“Our homeless communities often have difficulty accessing eye care and know how tough it can be to live with impaired sight,” she said.
“Trying to function with uncorrected vision, and a desperate need for glasses, is something that few of us can imagine, but this is the daily reality for thousands of people, here in the UK.”
This National Eye Health Week coincides with the 20th anniversary of the founding of VCHP.
“We will be drawing attention, with a renewed call for volunteer optometrists and clinic managers, to help us on our way to resolving this major health inequality,” English added.
One-minute glaucoma lessons
Trying to function with uncorrected vision, and a desperate need for glasses, is something that few of us can imagine, but this is the daily reality for thousands of people, here in the UK
The charity aims to raise awareness about the disease and emphasise the significance of the timely dissemination of information when it comes to safeguarding sight.
Joanne Creighton, chief executive of Glaucoma UK, said: “Glaucoma UK is raising awareness of glaucoma by delivering essential bitesize information about the disease.
“Dedicating less than one minute to learn about glaucoma could potentially save your sight in the future, and taking 10 seconds to share it on social media might safeguard the vision of countless others as well,” she said.
Dedicating less than one minute to learn about glaucoma could potentially save your sight in the future
Sharing the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma
A gold ribbon is the internationally recognised symbol of childhood cancer, and so CHECT will be ‘going for gold’ through the month, aiming to raise awareness amongst patients and healthcare professionals.
The charity has shared a number of ways to get involved.
Petra Maxwell, head of support services at CHECT, shared: “For NEHW, we are encouraging optometrists to get in touch to order our free posters and leaflets to display at their practices. With so many families thinking about getting children’s eyes checked as they start or go back to school, this is the perfect time for optical stores to support us in raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma.”
Posters and leaflets can be ordered through emailing [email protected]
This is the perfect time for optical stores to support us in raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma
Eye health ‘Eye-Q’
Launched to coincide with NEHW, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health, as well as how to spot and manage conditions such as dry eye disease.
The campaign is backed by the TV presenter, author and model, Lisa Snowdon.
Snowdon has experienced dry eyes for more than four years and commented: “I don’t think people talk about eye health enough. It’s so important. As I’ve become older, I’m more aware and concerned about my eye health.”
Describing how she had experienced watery eyes for many years, later noticing that her eyes felt dry, Snowdon said: “I discussed this with my optometrist, and they advised this is due to the menopause – I now get flare ups most weeks, which usually last for a day or two.”
“Eye health should be a priority – I hope this campaign encourages people to think about how much they really know about their eye health and take steps to look after their eyes,” she added.
Théa UK has launched a ‘What’s Your Eye-Q' quiz to help people measure their own knowledge around eye health.
Keval Sejpar, principal optometrist at McAusland Optometrists and a member of Théa UK’s Expert on Your Eyes team, shared: “There is a lot that people don’t know about when it comes to looking after our eyes, from how often to get them tested, to how frequently we should take breaks from looking at screens, or how diet and other lifestyle factors can have an effect. Not many people know that fluctuations in hormones during menopause can have a significant impact on their eye health too.”
“I would urge everyone to look at the ‘What’s your Eye-Q' quiz to see how much they really know about their eyes,” Sejpar added.
Eye health should be a priority – I hope this campaign encourages people to think about how much they really know about their eye health and take steps to look after their eyes
Empowering patients to look after their health
Earlier this year, optometrist Bobby Fida, a Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) advancement lead, passed the Royal Society Public Health Level 2 Understanding Health Improvement training.
Delivered by LOCSU, the training means Fida is now a recognised ‘Health Champion.’
Sharing her thoughts on NEHW, Fida said: “Optometrists have always educated their patients and advocated the need for regular sight tests, as we understand how eyesight and your health are interlinked.
“The knowledge and skills we have, equips us to start conversations with patients in wider health concerns and empower patients with the knowledge and tools to better look after their eyes and health.
“This can take many forms, from talking about the effect of smoking on eye health, protecting your eyes when outdoors, spending more time outdoors and making small lifestyle changes for better eye and general health,” she continued.
“If there is one step you can take towards better health and eye health – it’s booking a sight test, and National Eye Health Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness of this.”
The future for patients
Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has plans to share articles packed with eye care tips and promote activities across the Moorfields community.
This includes highlighting an all-day in-person conference hosted by the Friends of Moorfields on 4 November.
The conference, called The Future of Eye Care, will enable patients, carers and families to learn more about data-driven eye care, the latest in research, as well as specific eye conditions and how treatments for them might evolve.
Moorfields Eye Charity will also be sharing advice for parents on looking after their children’s eyes.
Acute eye care services spotlight
Specsavers has been discussing the role of community optometry in supporting the NHS, including the Minor Eye Conditions and Community Urgent Eyecare Service.
Specsavers has seen more than 586,000 patient interactions since the start of March this year, which included patients experiencing acute eye problems, and those with long-term conditions.
Frank Moore, head of enhanced optical services at Specsavers, said: “As well as completing more than 400,000 patient interactions in England, we have also seen more than 100,000 in Scotland, 67,000 in Wales and 15,000 in Northern Ireland.”
“Throughout the whole of the UK, we expect to see in the region of 1.1 million patient appointments in the 12-month period between March 2023 and the end of February 2024,” Moore continued. “To put this into context, Specsavers saw nearly one million such appointments between March 2022 and February 2023, and there were 453,000 appointments for the same period in 2018-2019.”
More than 165,000 patients have been seen through acute eye care services in England in the last six months, he noted.
Moore’s family have a personal experience of the benefits of these services, after his father experienced sudden and significant pain on a Sunday evening and was able to attend Specsavers Melton Mowbray early on the Monday morning.
“Our skilled optometrist spotted symptoms of uveitis. This meant my father was able to attend the local eye casualty department that afternoon – along with a referral letter to confirm the findings of the appointment,” Moore explained.
“He was seen at the hospital within a prompt timescale and received a prescription, helping to ensure a speedy recovery from the condition,” he said.
Our skilled optometrist spotted symptoms of uveitis
Newmedica is taking to social media this week to illustrate how collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology can support waiting lists.
Nigel Kirkpatrick, medical director for Newmedica, commented: "Two million people in the UK are currently living with sight loss. That’s why National Eye Health Week is so important for raising awareness of eye conditions and encouraging more people to get an eye test."
He explained that over the course of the week, Newmedica will be sharing "how close collaboration between optometrists and ophthalmologists can help to reduce NHS waiting times for three of the most common conditions – glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration – in the UK."
Seeking: ophthalmic innovation in Scotland
InnoScot Health has suggested that NEHW is an ideal time to focus on ophthalmic innovation.
The company works in partnership with NHS Scotland in commercialising healthcare innovations and is seeking eye care solutions to achieve better outcomes in ophthalmology.
The partner of NHS Scotland is operating an ongoing ophthalmology innovation call, which offers a package of support for health and social care staff including guidance in areas such as intellectual property protection, regulation, funding, project management, and commercialisation, to an initial value of £25,000.
Identifying opportunities for accelerated ophthalmic solutions that can improve the lives of both NHS Scotland and patients and clinicians is incredibly important
Robert Rea, head of innovation at InnoScot Health, said: “National Eye Health Week is an opportunity to underline a shared vision for high-quality eye care and better patient outcomes.”
He added that ophthalmologists and those in support roles in NHS Scotland are best placed to identify unmet needs and bottlenecks, adding: “Improvements are being made all the time with ophthalmology undoubtedly considered a rapidly evolving surgical specialty. There is much to be optimistic about.”
“So far there have been promising ideas submitted in response to our innovation call on a range of medical devices – fresh approaches to digital therapy for eye conditions, new ways of improving technology for retinal disease diagnosis, and better management of patients undergoing cataract surgery,” Rea said. “Identifying opportunities for accelerated ophthalmic solutions that can improve the lives of both NHS Scotland and patients and clinicians is incredibly important.”
InnoScot has supported ophthalmic innovations including Peekaboo Vision, an app created by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Multifocal Retinal Imager, which was developed in collaboration with Wideblue, and the iGrading platform, a diabetic retinopathy screening tool developed alongside NHS Grampian and the University of Aberdeen.