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Screening backlog: CCEHC encourages parents to book NHS sight test

Parents should be encouraged to book eligible children for sight tests as a “failsafe” in light of challenges resuming vision screening

child holding pencil
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The Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) has released a series of recommendations aimed at tackling a vision screening backlog that has developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CCEHC recommends that parents of children who started their reception year in 2019 or 2020 but missed out on vision screening should be advised to have an NHS sight test if the resumption of the local vision screening programme is not imminent.

The CCEHC has produced a template letter as a starting point for local agreement on how advice could be presented to parents.

Alongside recommendations for those in charge of screening provision and specialist eye services, the CCEHC has produced guidance on the responsibilities of optical practices.

Optical practices should provide NHS sight tests under General Ophthalmic Services for children whose parents present with a vision screening letter.

These sight tests should be aligned with professional practice guidance, which recommends the assessment of crowded logMAR letter acuity and optometrists should provide a GOS2 statement or prescription to enable parents to report back to the screening programme.

If indicated, children should be referred to secondary care in line with local guidance.

Optometrist Dr Julie-Anne Little, a member of the CCEHC’s vision screening working group, stressed the importance of addressing the screening backlog in order to detect vision loss and amblyopia in children.

She highlighted that optometrists may see an increase in the number of children coming into practice.

“It is important to note that primary care can provide an interim solution to this problem to help alleviate the backlog that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused,” Dr Little said.

She added that the current measures are not a long-term change to the way that screening operates but there is potential to showcase the value of optometry.

“There is opportunity to show primary care could be useful and perhaps lay the ground for future children's vision pathways,” Dr Little emphasised.