More than 550 people from across the sight loss sector gathered in London last week (18 June) for the annual conference of the UK Vision Strategy.
Now in its seventh year, the conference brought together representatives from the charity sector, commissioning and health and social care at Westminster Central Hall in London, to call for continued collaboration across the sector in order to influence decision-makers in eye health and vision loss services.
However, concerns were raised at the lack of progress in some areas, with the issue of sight loss still low on the list of priorities of decision-makers, despite the ageing UK population and increasing levels of preventable sight loss.
Chief executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Lesley-Anne Alexander, said that the sector is “still tackling the same issues” as when the Vision Strategy was set up seven years ago.
Stressing the need to make sight loss a public health issue, she told delegates: “We need to acknowledge just how tough the climate is and we need to acknowledge that we are facing, as a sector, ever greater challenges.”
She added: “If we don’t act now and make sight loss a public health issue there will be millions more people who lose their sight unnecessarily.”
Former Gold-medal winning paralympian, Lord Chris Holmes, highlighted the need for more blind and partially sighted role models “in every possible sphere” of professional life. The conservative peer explained the importance of making blind and partially sighted people central in the decision making process when delivering support services. “If they are not at the centre of the decision, you are not making the best decision,” he explained.
Inspiring delegates, he urged: “Believe in what we’re trying to achieve with the Vision 2020 Strategy. Believe in that strategy and make it a reality.”
In a move away from previous years, the conference format was split into five streams, including social inclusion for young people and using technology to improve accessibility.
Commenting on the success of the event, head of the UK Vision Strategy, Fazilet Hadi, said: “This year felt really energetic and motivated [...] and the speakers have been excellent. We’ve still got a mountain to climb but it feels like we’re all doing it together.”