Eye Health groups echo call on CCGs to raise their game on services for people with learning disabilities

3 February 2015

A call on Commissioners to raise their game and deliver better services for people with learning disabilities has been welcomed by leading a leading eye health organisation and sight loss charity SeeAbility.

NHS England directors and nursing chiefs urged Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to improve services and criticised the “slow pace of change” at a board meeting last week. Figures show that just six out of 210 CCGs have commissioned eye services for people with learning disabilities.

Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings, said that Commissioners needed to work with local government, social services, and the Department of Health to improve services for people with disabilities.

NHS Directors, Dame Moira Gibb and Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, raised their disappointment at the “slow pace of change for children with learning disabilities”.

The comments came on the same day as the publication of the NHS-commissioned report, Transforming Care for People With Learning Disabilities – Next Steps. The urgent action plan, written by former charity chief, Sir Stephen Bubb, assesses the type of services that should be in place along with community-based support.

Sir Stephen accepts that, although progress has been made, “much more needs to be done and ...we must accelerate the transformation”.

Figures from LOCSU and sight loss charity SeeAbility reveal just six out of 210 CCGs have commissioned longer, adapted sight tests for people with learning disabilities, with one in the north of England and the remainder dotted around greater London.

The organisations warn that this leaves nearly one million people with learning disabilities in England without accessible sight tests.

Latest figures reveal that almost 60% of people with learning disabilities accessing an adapted sight test needed spectacles, with one third having new eye health issues identified.

Both LOCSU and SeeAbility are calling on Clinical Commissioning Groups across England to commission the learning disabilities pathway so more high-street opticians can offer accessible eye care services for everyone who needs them.

LOCSU Managing Director, Katrina Venerus said: “People with learning disabilities urgently need local commissioners to fund more high street opticians to offer services that are designed for them.

“Serious sight problems are 10 times more common among people with learning disabilities and have a disproportionate impact on the quality of life they can lead. This is a real but avoidable issue.

“In theory, opticians’ services are available to everyone. However, people with learning disabilities are often excluded, as they can find it impossible to access services that are not designed specifically for their needs, such as pre-site familiarisation visits.

“Effective intervention from an optometrist to correct vision problems can dramatically improve a patient’s communication and motor skills, making day-to-day living much easier.”  

David Scott-Ralphs, Chief Executive of SeeAbility, said: “Lack of access to regular eye care puts people with learning disabilities at risk of unnecessary sight loss. This has significant consequences.

“Someone who is losing their sight yet unable to communicate what is happening can become confused, frustrated or angry. They can lose their confidence, stop going out or give up on activities that they have enjoyed as their sight diminishes. As a result a person can need increasing care and support. This is all avoidable.”



England’s key health and care bodies published a report on 29th January setting out the next steps of a system-wide plan to answer the calls from individuals and their families to overhaul services for people with learning disabilities. http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/transform-care-nxt-stps.pdf

The Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) supports Local Optical Committees (LOCs) across England in developing local eye health services. LOCSU helps community optometrists and opticians work with local commissioners to make community eye services accessible for patients and cost effective for the NHS. LOCs represent the interests of Optometrists, Dispensing Opticians and Contractors of General Ophthalmic Services in local areas.

For more information about the Community Eye Care Pathway for Adults and Young People with Learning Disabilities, visit the Community Pathway Services page of the LOCSU website.



SeeAbility is a UK charity supporting people with sight loss and multiple disabilities to live the life they choose. We enrich the lives of people with sight loss and multiple disabilities by providing specialist support enabling as much independence in life as possible. We support people to develop the skills and make the choices they want to enjoy a fulfilling life.

We share our expert knowledge to raise awareness and increase access to eye care and vision services for people with learning disabilities. For more information visit the SeeAbility website.



Chris McGachy, LOCSU Communications Manager, email cmcgachy@locsu.co.uk, or telephone 020 7549 2053.

Stephen Kill, SeeAbility National Manager – Eye Care and Vision s.kill@seeability.org or telephone 07738 040307

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