Proposed model for expanded Special Schools Eyecare Service published

NHS England has published an engagement document, with feedback to be made by 16 October

A colourful children’s abacus sits on a table

NHS England has published its proposed model for the expansion of the Special Schools Eyecare Service to all special school settings from April 2024.

The service, which currently benefits close to 11,000 children, could become available to 165,000 pupils under the expansion.

The engagement document on the planned Special Schools Eyecare Service model outlines the care model used in the proof-of-concept phase, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this model and the care model that is proposed for wider roll out.

The proposed care model offers an annual sight test to all pupils in residential and day special school settings. A pair of spectacles and lenses will be provided where vision correction is required.

Co-payment from the carer or parent is required where the total cost of the lenses and frames is greater than the General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) voucher value.

This is a change from the initial proof-of-concept model where each child needing vision correction was provided with two pairs of frames and lenses, including frames from durable, high-quality ranges such as Erin’s World, Tomato Glasses and Miraflex. No co-payment was required from parents and carers.

As part of the engagement document, NHS England explained that the changes align with the wider NHS sight test offer “to ensure parity in treatment across all school groups.”

“We recognise that taking this approach may cause some anxiety as to how to secure a second pair of glasses if this is clinically indicated and in relation to access to repairs and replacements,” the engagement document states.

The engagement document highlighted that NHS England is interested in receiving feedback about the experiences of clinicians, children, parents and carers – and suggestions for how the processes around the provision of a second pair of spectacles, repairs and replacements could be improved.

Under the planned model, each child will be provided with an eye health outcome report.

NHS England proposes that the eye care teams that deliver services would be required to demonstrate capacity and competence to meet the testing and dispensing needs of a school. However, the format of the eye care team would not be mandated.

Alongside the engagement document, NHS England has published an evaluation of the proof-of-concept Special Schools Eyecare Service.

The deadline for feedback on the engagement document is 16 October. Feedback can be provided through an online form.