“Everybody should have access to eye care locally”
Dave Myers, one half of presenting duo Hairy Bikers, has backed the call for a National Eye Health Strategy
23 November 2023
Specsavers has emphasised the need for a National Eye Health Strategy with optometrists taking a primary role in detecting, treating and managing eye conditions.
Key public figures are supporting the call for policy change.
Specsavers highlighted that more than two million people are living with sight loss in the UK, and every year 250 people lose their sight due to treatable conditions such as glaucoma.
The multiple highlighted figures from its recent Access to care report, which found that more than one million attendances in accident and emergency last year were for eye-related conditions, and that more than half of these could have been treated by optometrists in the community.
People with eye-related conditions account for five million GP consultations each year, Specsavers added, which could be dealt with by community optometrists using existing infrastructure.
The call for a National Eye Health Strategy has been supported by television presenter Dave Myers, best known as one half of the Hairy Bikers, who was diagnosed with glaucoma after the signs were identified during a routine appointment with an optometrist.
“If the early stages of my glaucoma hadn’t been detected during an eye test, it would have progressed and I could have gone blind,” Myers said. “Everybody should have access to eye care locally regardless of where they live, not only to prevent avoidable sight loss but also to detect other life-threatening conditions. Early detection and treatment are essential so everyone should use their local opticians as a first port of call - they are accessible and affordable.”
“I back Specsavers’ call for all parties to support the creation and implementation of a National Eye Health strategy in the next Parliament. We all need to work together to support the NHS and improve patient outcomes,” he said.
Marsha de Cordova, Labour MP for Battersea, and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Vision Impairment, introduced a bill calling for a National Eye Health Strategy in November 2022.
“Health strategies have delivered positive outcomes in Scotland, as they have in England for other diseases, but at present England is the only country in the UK without an eye health strategy.”
She added that introducing the strategy would “improve the quality of life of people with sight loss, eliminate the postcode lottery, address health inequalities and link up patient pathways for overall improved health outcomes.”
“As someone who has been living with nystagmus since I was born,” de Cordova shared, “eye health is a topic close to my heart and I believe we should make it our national ambition to ensure that no-one loses their sight unnecessarily.”
This summer, the profession highlighted its commitment to the strategy after it was confirmed that the National Eye Health Strategy Bill would not receive its second reading during the current parliamentary session, and would need to be reintroduced in 2024. Read more about the update here.
National Eye Health Strategy
The strategy also calls for access to free NHS eye tests for people experiencing homelessness, and faster access to NHS eye tests for people living in residential care settings. The strategy would also promote telemedicine and remote consultations for individuals living in remote areas.
Describing an “eye health emergency,” Specsavers stated: “A National Eye Health Strategy is therefore urgently needed to improve and standardise eye care access for everyone in England.”
Giles Edmonds, clinical services director at Specsavers, said: “17.5 million adults in the UK haven’t had an eye test in the past two years as recommended. We support a National Eye Healthy Strategy because we believe everyone should have equal access to eye care.”