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Establishment of an eye care service in special schools in Wales under consultation

Plans for an eye care service in special schools across Wales will undergo a three-month consultation before it can be approved

Establishment of an eye care service in special schools in Wales under consultation
Plans to establish an eye care service for children at special schools in Wales have been revealed by the Welsh government.

If the plans go ahead, following a three-month consultation that is now open, the service would be the first nationwide service of its kind in Wales.

The proposed service will be known as School Pupil Eye Care Service (SPECS) and would see ophthalmic teams provide pupils with eyes tests and services in the school environment during the school day. With statistics showing 4444 students attending 39 special schools in Wales in 2014–15, many could benefit from the service if it is established.

Research by academics at Cardiff University in 2012 showed that a high proportion of pupils attending special schools have uncorrected refractive errors and previously unrecognised vision impairment.

The initiaitve would offer pupils a first assessment when they start school, as well as regular sight tests throughout their school years. A fitting and delivery service for those who require spectacles would also be introduced.

When students leave school, they would be given a 'vision passport' containing details of their vision requirements to help encourage them to maintain their eye health as an adult.

Commenting on the consultation for the new service, Health and Social Services Minister for Wales, Professor Mark Drakeford, said: “Preventing avoidable sight loss and the early identification of sight problems starts in childhood, but for children and young people with learning disabilities there is evidence of barriers to accessing eye care and high unmet need.”

He added: “I look forward to hearing people’s views about our plans for the SPECS service. The service will ensure all pupils and students attending special schools in Wales have access to ophthalmic services, making the right support available at the right time and in the right place for our most vulnerable learners.”

The proposal will undergo a three-month consultation before it can be approved.

Image credit: Gary Simmons