June 14, 2024

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Report laying out a blueprint for eye health launched at Westminster Eye Health Day

4 min read

Westminster Eye Health Day 2023 saw MPs and stakeholders from within eye health pledging their support for an organised strategy for eye health in England.

Held on Monday 11 December at the Houses of Parliament, the day served as a launching pad for the Laying the foundations for the future of eye health in England report, which is calling for a national eye care plan to address surging patient demand.

The report identifies critical areas that must be addressed in order to prevent further life-changing sight loss, and emphasises that coordinated action is required to improve eye care for patients in England.

640,000+

people waiting to start specialist ophthalmology treatment in England as of September 2023

Recommendations include better data and connectivity; prevention, diagnosis, and early treatment; equity of access throughout the patient pathway; challenges faced by the eye care workforce; new technologies and treatment models; investment into research for future treatments, and the availability of treatments at large.

The report’s key asks include improved IT connectivity and image sharing between primary and secondary care, greater opportunities for people living with sight-threatening conditions to be supported by trained eye care liaison officers, better utilisation of the primary eye care workforce to deliver more care outside hospital, and the doubling of funding for eye care research.

Westminster Eye Health Day is organised by The Eyes Have It partnership, of which the AOP is a member.

The Eyes Have It commissioned the report in order to highlight current challenges and solutions to support the NHS, and to improve patient care.

During the day, MPs from across the political spectrum were invited to drop in to discuss the issues at hand with experts from across the sector and attending clinicians.

Opening the event, Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Vision Impairment, said it was vital to ensure that “government and ministers are engaged on what we all believe is an absolutely important issue.”

Whilst acknowledging that there are huge pressures across the NHS for all health conditions, de Cordova emphasised that the fact there are currently more than 640,000 people waiting to start specialist ophthalmology treatment in England means that eye health is a “serious, serious concern.”

Regional variations and a postcode lottery for care mean people are not currently receiving timely diagnoses or access to the right treatments and do not have adequate support in order to live well with their eye conditions, de Cordova said.

She noted that England is the only country in the UK that does not currently have an eye health strategy, and emphasised that the report offers a blueprint for this.

Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Vision Impairment

Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Vision Impairment

She added: “We are all united in the change that we all want to see across the sector. From industry to health to the voluntary sector, together we must continue to push for this change within eye health, and push for elements of the strategy to be included in all manifestos for all political parties ahead of the general election in 2024.

“Our message is simple: everyone should have access to high quality eye health care when and where they need it.”

Keith Valentine, chief executive of Fight for Sight/Vision Foundation and a member of The Eyes Have It, called the day “a moment for optimism, and for opportunity.”

The report sets out a plan for the future, he said, adding that his own experience of being diagnosed with sight loss and subsequently seeing his daughter being diagnosed with the same condition has made him believe that “the system we’ve got is fractured in ways that are fixable.”

Keith Valentine, chief executive of Fight for Sight/Vision Foundation and a member of The Eyes Have It

Keith Valentine, chief executive of Fight for Sight/Vision Foundation and a member of The Eyes Have It

 
He added: “We should be optimistic about the right investment and the right development in the system making a profound difference to what is possible.

“This report represents a really exciting opportunity for us to look forward to an environment where eye health, which is critical to the productivity of our country and to making sure employment rates are where they should be and that we’re dynamic and creative and forward looking, is got right.”

Valentine emphasised that earlier diagnosis means better outcomes, as well as a better chance of being able to cope with the mental health impact that comes with sight loss or other eye health conditions.

“I would urge everyone in this room to take something away from here: what we do next matters. It is positive and the potential is there,” he said.

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