The Lisa Donaldson episode

In the sixth episode of The OT  Podcast, we speak to optometrist and head of eye care and vision at SeeAbility, Lisa Donaldson

In episode six of The OT Podcast, we explore how people with learning disabilities can access good quality eye care with optometrist and head of eye care and vision at SeeAbility, Lisa Donaldson.

Donaldson, who alongside her work with SeeAbility is a visiting lecturer at City, University of London, begins by discussing her early career as a pre-reg at Moorfields, and how she came to develop an interest in paediatrics and low vision right from the start.

“As an organisation, SeeAbility has worked in the public health arena, for people with learning disabilities, to highlight the need for good eye care for this population,” Donaldson said. “We know that people with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to have a problem with their eyes, and yet much less likely to access eye care.”

That interest led to the creation of what would eventually become the Special Schools Eye Care Service (SSECS) in 2013. The service has benefited nearly 11,000 children to date, and will be rolled out to 160,000 in 2024.

Donaldson explains how she, along with a colleague, piloted the service at one South London school in 2013, before widening to seven schools. The work began as a data gathering exercise, to identify whether a service providing eye care for children in special schools was required.

In 2019, Donaldson and her colleagues published data on 1000 children in special schools, revealing that 40% had never had any eye care, and only 10% had been to a High Street optometrist.

Donaldson describes “a massive need, all too frequently unmet.”

The data was taken to NHS England, and the SSECS was commissioned in 2021.

After a period of review, June 2023 saw the announcement that the service would be expanded from 2024 to reach around 160,000 children. £10 million has been set aside for the work, although details on exactly what will be covered have not yet been confirmed.

“The challenge still ahead is how we ensure that it is available in every school, and that every child in every school is offered the service if they need it,” Donaldson said. “We have no doubt that there are still challenges ahead.”

The AOP is supporting the SSECS via its Sight for SEN campaign. Find out more here.

The OT Podcast

OT will release a new episode of The OT Podcast bimonthly, with episode seven due for release in November. You can listen to The OT Podcast on our website, or via all the main podcast apps, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Castbox. Be sure to catch-up and listen to other episodes, featuring experts including Professor Nicola Logan, Ian Cameron, Keith Valentine, Dr Peter Frampton and Dr Stephanie Campbell.

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Play episode six: The Lisa Donaldson episode