Report finds gaps in awareness of at-home eye care

Healthcare Improvement Scotland has outlined recommendations for raising awareness of free at-home eye tests and financial support for glasses and contact lenses, for those patients who are eligible

KY Healthcare Improvement Scotland
Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

A report by Healthcare Improvement Scotland has indicated a gap in public awareness of free at-home eye tests for eligible patients, and outlined recommendations for raising awareness of services and support available for eligible patients.

The Citizens’ Panel survey, commissioned by the Scottish Government and held between June and August 2022, asked questions about awareness of eye health and eye care services in the country, in order to inform the Government’s eye health strategy. The panel makes up a demographically representative section of people across Scotland.

Of the 573 people who responded to the survey, 57% were unaware that some people are eligible to have an NHS eye examination where they live.

The survey found that 16% were not aware that NHS-funded eye examinations were free in Scotland, while 13% of respondents were unaware that financial support is available towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses for those eligible.

While 87% of respondents said they had their eyes checked every one to two years, Healthcare Improvement Scotland highlighted that some remain unaware of the importance of regular eye examinations beyond vision. Of those who had their eyes examined less regularly than one to two years, 50% gave the main reason for this as: ‘I don’t think I need it as I don’t have a problem with my vision.’

Maree Todd, minister for public health, women’s health and sport, noted that it was “encouraging” that a majority of survey respondents are having regular NHS eye examinations.

“However, the report also highlights areas for improvement, including the importance of making more people aware that they may be eligible to receive financial help towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses, or have an NHS eye examination in the place where they live,” Todd acknowledged.

The survey asked panellists to consider the role of an optometrist and optometry practices, with the report revealing that 94% of respondents identified that optometrists perform eye examinations and treat eye conditions, and outlining that 67% of respondents thought optometry practices are a combination of both a healthcare service and a retailer.

If they experienced an eye problem, respondents said they would either go to an optometrist (39%) or GP practice (38%).

Respondents also identified their top priorities for eye care as: being seen by an eye care specialist (80%), being seen quickly (59%) and in a convenient location (41%).

The report lists six recommendations for the Scottish Government, primarily around continuing to raise awareness of services and available support: this includes increasing awareness around the importance of regular eye examinations and related health benefits.

The Scottish Government was also encouraged to continue raising awareness of financial support towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses, with clear information around eligibility and access for patients, as well as highlighting the provision of free NHS-funded examinations at home, for those who cannot leave their house unaccompanied.

Recommendations also included prioritising ‘first port of call’ messaging around optometry for eye care concerns, suggesting, “The campaign should highlight public priorities: how optometry services ensure individuals are seen by a specialist, quicker and at a convenient location.”

Todd confirmed that the Scottish Government will work with stakeholders to consider recommendations “to promote eye health as an important public health issue, and raise awareness of Scotland’s world-leading eye health services.”

The full report can be found online.