100% Optical

On stage at 100% Optical: Peer review: Special schools and Easy Eye Care in the community

Lisa Donaldson, head of eye care and vision at SeeAbility, on highlighting the unmet eye care needs of people with a learning disability, engaging with pathways, and free training for practices

The photograph is taken from an angle: Lisa Donaldson smiles at the camera
In the lead-up to 100% Optical 2024, OT reached out to a selection of speakers from the education programme to find out more about the sessions on offer, the topics that will be explored, and what visitors can expect. See the series on OT’s page dedicated to 100% Optical.

Could you give us an insight into the topic your session will cover?

The session will highlight the high level of unmet eye care need in the learning-disabled population. People with a learning disability are 10 times more likely than the rest of the population to have a problem with their eyes, and yet much less likely to access the eye care they need. They experience very high levels of avoidable visual impairment, most often due to uncorrected refractive error as well as undiagnosed cataract. Many people are not accessing eye care, with some attending hospital for what should be routine primary care.

The session will present some of the barriers to eye care this patient group experiences, and what we can all do to ensure that a vulnerable group is not missing out on achieving optimal vision.

What are some of the key messages you wish to highlight?

SeeAbility believe passionately that whatever a person’s disability, they have the right to good eye care and to experience optimal vision. We are keen to share the great news that the Department for Health has committed to rolling out eye care services in all special schools from April 2024, after a successful proof of concept in response to research which evidenced that more than 40% of special school students had no eye care history despite at least half having a problem with their eyes, and 40% needing glasses – often to higher prescriptions.  

We also want to raise awareness of the Easy Eye Care pathway, a Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) pathway now commissioned across the North West, in Durham, Sutton, and across South East London. The pathway funds the additional time needed to provide good eye care for someone with a learning disability or autism.  

In 2024, SeeAbility is being funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust to offer everyone in the optical sector free learning disability and autism training led by people with lived experience – the Oliver McGowan mandatory learning disability and autism training. Our sector is currently missing out on the requirement to complete this training, which was intended for all health and social care providers because the eligibility for the requirement is everyone working for a Care Quality Commission regulated provider. We are keen to promote this training, especially to non-General Optical Council regulated practice staff.

Find out more about the free Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism Tier 1 on the SeeAbility website.  

Who is this topic for? Who might benefit the most from joining?

This session will be of interest to everyone who works in patient facing roles in eye care: optometrists, dispensing opticians, optical assistants and reception teams. Anyone who would like to change someone’s life with a first pair of glasses and see the difference that glasses can make when someone has missed out for too long.

What do you hope the top takeaway will be for attendees?

We would love attendees to go away inspired to become an Easy Eye Care provider if the pathway exists in their area. If not, then to go to their Local Optical Committee and local authority learning disability teams and explore how to get a pathway set up. We hope optometrists and dispensing opticians will be interested in providing the special schools eye care service. We hope people would like to take up the opportunity of the Oliver McGowan learning disability and autism training.

2024 marks 10 years of 100% Optical. How do you feel about being part of a milestone year for the optical show?

It is exciting to see how 100% Optical has grown to become the go-to event for the sector. As well as being a trade fair, the CPD offer has gone from strength-to-strength. It is great to have the AOP ensuring the quality of what is on offer. The networking opportunities and chances to explore the latest kit and optical products make attending an easy decision.

Read more of OT’s coverage ahead of 100% Optical.

Sign up for the show online. Due to popular demand, as the event approaches, readers are encouraged to review and cancel any sessions that no longer fit in with their plans for the show, in order to release capacity for others to attend. Space is reserved in the programme for walk-ins, allocated on a first-come first-served basis.