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The State of the Nation Eye Health 2017: A Year in Review

Photo of patient eye data

In September 2016, the RNIB and Specsavers worked in partnership with the aim of transforming eye health in the UK and preventing sight loss where possible. A year later, in 2017, A Year in Review was published reporting on the scheme and its main achievements.

I can see you

The review highlighted new information regarding the national occurrence of sight loss and general attitudes to UK eye health.

Of all the senses, it was sight loss which was the most feared in the people questioned. Therefore, promoting public awareness of eye health is a positive step. This becomes even more relevant when 250 people a day, across the UK, face sight loss and 1 in 5 will live with sight loss in their lifetime.

Can I have your advice please?

The review also demonstrated the fact that nearly a quarter of the population dismiss early signs of lowered levels of vision, whether close-up or distant. Perhaps more alarming is that it revealed that as many as 23% have not visited an optician or any other appropriate medical professionals, specialising in eye care, to seek guidance.

Yet an optician can do a lot more than just perform tests to see if you need to start wearing specs or change your existing lenses. At a routine eye examination, he or she can detect early signs of cardiovascular disease. As this is the leading cause of death in the UK, it makes sense to get this regularly checked out, particularly if your lifestyle involves little exercise, your diet is high in fat, sugars and carbohydrate and you smoke or are overweight. This also applies to people with sight loss who should be regularly having eye health checks.

Teething problems

Whilst the report demonstrated that eye care appears not to be a top priority for many British people they are, by contrast, likely to visit a dentist every six months. This compares drastically to a significant number of UK adults not having an eye test for two or more years, and possibly not at all.

Action plan 

In the light of these statistics, the RNIB and Specsavers developed a strategy to try and counteract some of these findings.

Raising public awareness about eye care is the first step and this should also aim to dispel the myth that eye care is mainly for the over 50’s or those from a poorer demographic. Bringing the importance of eye care to the attention of everyday people will encourage more people to have regular sight tests. It will also highlight the need to seek advice from an optometrist at an early stage if changes in their sight are detected. Services must also be available to all, conforming to the Equality Act.

The findings of the report show that accurate and up to date data, referring to all aspects of eye health, need to be improved and maintained. This will also help influence relevant eye care commissioning and available services.

Another proposed action arising from the review is for the promotion of qualified and professional leadership in eye health. 

Let’s talk

Following the creation of the RNIB and Specsavers partnership in September 2016, the RNIB conducted five roundtable meetings during 2017 to discuss policy initiative. They also invited a wide spectrum of appropriate specialists such as health professionals and commissioners and which also included patients, to analyse how improvement in delivery in eye care services can help to increase the number of people who consult an optician, either for advice or on a regular check-up basis.

After each of these discussions, the RNIB produced briefings with statistical evidence, together with any informative notes arising from the meetings.

To find out more about the RNIB and Specsavers scheme, visit: https://www.rnib.org.uk/state-nation-2017