Advisory body writes open letter to NHS England over the Special Schools Eye Care Service

The Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning has emphasised its support for the service, which is undergoing a funding review


The Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) has voiced its support for the Special Schools Eye Care Service (SSECS).

A letter, addressed to NHS England and signed by CCEHC’s chair, Wojciech Karwatowski, and vice chair, Zoe Richmond, emphasised support for the service. 

The SSECS has existed in a ‘proof of concept’ phase since April 2021, and has seen over 9000 children across 83 special schools in that time

Funding for the service as it stands is currently under review, in order to ‘develop and evaluate options for delivery of sight tests to children in day special schools, subject to available resources.’

The letter says that CCEHC is “concerned by the delay and apparent lack of progress in the current evaluation process and subsequent commissioning of a long-term solution that supports those children who require such a service.”

It goes on to urge NHS England to commission a long-term service, which would ensure that children are not seen unnecessarily by the Hospital Eye Service, ensure equity of access to care whatever the child’s individual needs, and allow for appropriate adjustments to be made to facilitate delivery of care in an environment best suited for each child.

It is addressed to five key figures at NHS England, including the national clinical director for eye care, Louisa Wickham.

Contractors providing the SSECS were previously told that it would cease to exist in its current form in March 2023, before an extension to August was announced in December.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists wrote to NHS Service Lead, Jonathan Devereux, in October, emphasising the benefits of the ‘ambitious’ initiative, and how it had already made a significant contribution to the NHS Outpatient Transformation target. 

“The SSECS is ensuring that children are being optimally managed in the community with the specialist care they need and which patients find much easier to access, alleviating anxiety during ongoing care of their children,” the letter said.

In the UK, 44% of children who attend day and residential special schools have no previous history of eye care.

The CCEHC letter can be read in full here.