Westminster Eye Health Day in seven quotes
OT talks with organisations raising awareness of the importance of eye health through The Eyes Have It partnership
24 November 2022
The second annual Westminster Eye Health Day saw more than 40 MPs attend a parliamentary event organised by a coalition of eye health organisations.
Minister of State for Health and Secondary Care, Will Quince, acknowledged the call by The Eyes Have It partnership for a national plan for eye care in England.
Following the event, Battersea MP, Marsha de Cordova announced plans to table a bill in parliament for a national eye health strategy for England.
The Eyes Have It is a partnership made up of the Association of Optometrists, Macular Society, Fight for Sight, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Roche Products Ltd. OT explores some of the talking points from the day.
1 “It is about me being your champion in Government, making sure that your voice is heard at the top table”
Will Quince, Minister of State for Health and Secondary Care
At the event, Quince highlighted that he saw his role as a minister as a “two-way street.”
He emphasised his interest in visiting both examples of best practice in the community but also situations where improvement is needed.
“It is one thing to have a policy in Westminster and it is another thing what is actually being delivered on the ground at grassroots level. This is genuinely an open invitation – my door is always open to hear from you, to work with you and to collaborate with you,” Quince said.
Melanie Hingorani, joint honorary secretary of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, highlighted the importance of taking this offer up.
“An event like this – even if you get a couple of people who are power brokers, who you can follow up with and who can take action – that is gold dust,” she shared.
2 “This event has to be measured by the progress we achieve”
Keith Valentine, Fight for Sight chief executive
Chief executive of eye health research charity, Fight for Sight, Keith Valentine, told OT that The Eyes Have It Partnership is starting to deliver a policy and engagement portfolio that he has not seen within his 15 years working in the eye health sector.
However, he emphasised the importance of conversations around eye health translating into action.
Valentine hoped that MPs would leave the event more familiar with eye health issues and in a position to respond when policy issues are brought forward.
“I hope they are mindful of the importance of eye health in their constituencies and the importance of access to eye care services within their communities,” he said.
“These are incredibly volatile and difficult times. If there are cuts to the NHS, then it can be a difficult job to fight to keep eye health on the agenda,” Valentine noted.
3 “It is an opportunity every year to ask people to pause and think more about their eye health”
Cathy Yelf, Macular Society chief executive
Macular Society chief executive, Cathy Yelf, highlighted that Westminster Eye Health Day is chance to encourage policy makers, parliamentarians – and the public – to value a sense that is often taken for granted.
“I think the most common misconception about eye health is that people think you only need to see an optometrist if you need glasses. What people don’t understand is that eye health checks are very important. We know that not only can they pick up early signs of eye disease but signs of other health conditions,” she shared.
4 “We don’t want to be fragmented and therefore less powerful when we are trying to influence change”
Thom Renwick, ophthalmology therapy area lead, Roche Products
Thom Renwick, of Roche Products, highlighted that more than two million people in the UK live with sight loss. The company is committed to preventing avoidable sight loss.
“We would love to be part of the solution. Part of that is teaming up with the community at a policy level right down to the grassroots level to try to instigate change,” he said.
He noted the importance of industry, professional bodies, clinicians and patient organisations working together within the eye care sector.
“It is through that collaboration and diverse thinking that we get real change,” he said.
5 “There has to be a real commitment to working differently”
Melanie Hingorani, joint honorary secretary of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists
Ophthalmologist and joint secretary of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Melanie Hingorani, shared with OT that a national solution to the issues facing eye care is needed to avoid a postcode lottery.
“If we leave it to individual areas to work through the problems, we are going to take forever. A lot of what needs to be implemented should be done once nationally to empower people to deliver locally,” she said.
6 “If you have support from parliament, saying ‘We think this should be prioritised’ that opens up more doors”
Phil Ambler, RNIB country director
Reflecting on the importance of engaging with parliament, RNIB country director, Phil Ambler, shared the example of David Cameron publicly championing dementia care when he was prime minister.
In 2012, Cameron launched a programme that aimed to recruit one million Dementia Friends in the UK. There are now 20 million Dementia Friends worldwide.
“It makes you wonder ‘What if that would happen in terms of eye care?’ The profile of dementia changed because you had the prime minister, standing up and saying ‘This is important’,” Ambler shared.
7 “Optometrists have a proven track record in ensuring patients can access the care and treatment they deserve”
Adam Sampson, AOP chief executive
Chief executive of the AOP, Adam Sampson, highlighted that optometrists can play a key role in delivering a national plan for eye care in England
“With optical practices on every High Street, optometrists are ideally placed to give patients clinical care at the time they need it,” he said.
Main image: MP Marsha de Cordova next to a pledge board at Westminster Eye Health Day in October.