SeeAbility encourages optometrists to respond to consultation

A consultation on how the Special Schools Eye Care Service will be delivered when it is rolled out to all special school settings closes on 16 October

A girl in a striped blue and white t-shirt draws at a desk with a red and white polka dot pencil

Learning disability charity, SeeAbility, has encouraged parents, carers, schools and clinicians to respond to a consultation on the proposed model for the future delivery of the Special Schools Eye Care Service.

The service, which currently benefits close to 11,000 children, could become available to 165,000 pupils under the expansion from April 2024.

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

Head of eye care and vision at SeeAbility, Lisa Donaldson, shared that the evaluation is overwhelmingly positive, with 98% of participating schools stating that the service met their expectations and 75% reporting that the service had made a “significant improvement in learning and behaviour.”

The data in the evaluation report revealed that 42% of children seen through the service needed spectacles, while 70% had not previously had a sight test.

While welcoming the findings of the evaluation, Donaldson expressed concern at some of the changes proposed for the future of the scheme.

In particular, SeeAbility has reservations about proposals for the training of professionals and how children access their glasses.

“The consultation centres on the specification of the service but not so much on how it will be commissioned and funded appropriately, and it is vital we have a nationally agreed standard for children, parents and schools to have the confidence that elements of the service aren’t optional and will be of a good quality,” Donaldson emphasised.

However, Donaldson highlighted there is still a “great opportunity” to get the scheme right by delivering a national “one stop” service in all special schools, retaining the elements that were influential in the original programme’s success.

“We look forward to contributing to this process,” she said.

A public webinar hosted by NHS England on the Special Schools Eye Care Service will be held on Tuesday 3 October at midday. Those interested in attending can register online.

Optometrists who would like to read the evaluation and submit feedback on the consultation can find out more on the NHS England website.