The AOP has published a new position statement, which highlights a need for improved eye health services for patients with learning disabilities.
The Association’s position details how patients with learning disabilities are being failed by current NHS services and emphasises where improvements can be made, particularly in England.
In the statement, the AOP highlights the high prevalence of visual problems among individuals with learning disabilities across the UK and outlines the barriers that many may face in accessing diagnosis and treatment. These barriers, it says, include carers and parents believing that patients with learning disabilities cannot have a sight test if they cannot read, the stress that can be caused from visiting a new setting and ‘diagnostic overshadowing.’
In order to improve eye care services for people with learning disabilities, the AOP believes that the NHS in England should provide sight tests universally in all special schools and make NHS-funded sight tests available to everyone with a learning disability.
Pilots of projects that offer sight tests in special schools in Wales and Northern Ireland have been run and are currently being considered for wider roll-out, the AOP highlighted.
In Scotland, changes were introduced last month allowing for longer appointments and for tests to be split over different days. It is the first nation in the UK to implement changes to community services at a national level and the AOP feels similar changes to community services should be rolled out in all UK nations.
Speaking about the new position statement, chief executive at the AOP, Henrietta Alderman, said: “We believe that eye health and care should be accessible to all. However, as demonstrated in our position statement, many of the most vulnerable patients are being disadvantaged under current services. The AOP will be using this position paper to support our campaign work on improving uptake of sight tests and the nation’s eye health, and will continue to support SeeAbility in challenging inequalities in service provision.”