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A £28bn problem

A new report calculates the economic impact of sight loss in the UK

People wearing sim specs

Informing the 13.8m people in the UK who do not have regular sight tests about the importance of eye examinations could stop the country’s £28bn economic cost of sight loss from growing further.

This is the goal of a new collaboration between the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Specsavers.

The partnership has produced the State of the Nation Eye Health 2016 report, which was launched at the House of Lords this week (7 September).

The document calculated that the economic cost of sight loss rose by £6bn over the past seven years, reaching a total of £28bn in 2013.

It also found that three in four adults had received a sight test in the last two years. However, 13.8m people do not go for regular assessments, leaving them at risk of an undiagnosed sight-threatening condition.

The wider partnership will feature a Specsavers-funded advertising campaign and a fundraising drive for RNIB.

RNIB chief executive, Sally Harvey, told OT that she believed the whole profession was aware of the need for greater public education, adding: “We would value and welcome the wider sector getting on board with this to see how we can collaboratively get that message more closely heard.”

Specsavers co-founder, Doug Perkins, explained to OT that, in his early career as an optometrist, he had found that many people understood the importance of routine sight checks as a health requirement.

“It could possibly be – and I’m holding up my hand here – that [there was] so much focus on other things happening in optometry. There was fashion and the technology available in lenses, for different functions.

“While that has given people an extra reason to go to an optometrist, and that is a good thing, it may be that the focus on eye health has just not been there. I think this is the time for all of us to redress that balance,” he highlighted.

Asked about the issue of scaring the general public into getting an eye examination, Mr Perkins replied: “If you frighten people … they will turn off at some stage. You’ve got to have a very creative way of doing it. Our prime goal is to see people on a regular basis.”

RNIB vice president, Penny Lancaster-Stewart, also spoke at the event, explaining that: “It certainly isn’t that people don’t care about their sight … It’s simply that people don’t recognise that a sight test is an eye health check.

“We need to tackle this lack of awareness,” she emphasised.

The report also calculated that, today, 2m people in the UK live with sight loss – a number estimated to rise to 2.7m by 2030.

To read more about the report, visit the RNIB website.