LOCSU launches new eye care pathway for people with learning disabilities

5 April 2012

People with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to have eye problems than the rest of the population.¹  but they are less likely to get the right help and support with their eye care.

Recognising the need to improve access to good eye care services, the new Community Eye Care Pathway for Adults and Young People with Learning Disabilities has been developed by the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU).  The Pathway has been developed in conjunction with two leading charities, Mencap and SeeAbility to ensure that it  reflects the needs of people with learning disabilities, and is based on established successful learning disability services provided by community optometrists in a number of areas in England. 

The Pathway gives Local and Regional Optical Committees the basis for a proposal to improve the way eye care for people with learning disabilities is delivered in their local area. The benefits of the Pathway are that it allows for:

  • an enhanced sight test in a community setting – this gives optometrists more time to familiarise patients and their carer with the procedures and equipment at the time of the sight test and also gives time for repeat visits to complete procedures where needed
  • better preparation for patients and greater information sharing with the optometrist before the sight test via SeeAbility’s ‘Telling the optometrist about me’ form, which helps make the experience a positive one 
  • better feedback from optometrists to patients, regarding sight test results, using SeeAbility’s ‘Feedback from the Optometrist about my eye test form.’


Katrina Venerus, Director of Operations and Commissioning at LOCSU, said:

“Local and Regional Optical Committees already, through the increasing number of enhanced services in place across England and Wales, are making local community eye care services accessible. This Pathway will help Committees to make the case to Commissioners and increase eye care provision for an important vulnerable group in our society – often ‘unseen’ in terms of health provision.  We are grateful for the valuable input from two leading charities and some of the practitioners involved in areas where a learning disability service has already been commissioned, to ensure that the needs of people with learning disabilities and their carers are at the heart of this pathway.”

David Congdon, Mencap's Head of Campaigns and Policy, said:

"The LOCSU pathway has a vitally important role to play in improving the eye health of people with a learning disability and is a key tool to making sure that more people access the services that they need.  The eye health component of annual health checks for people with a learning disability also provides an opportunity to help identify problems with people's eyesight and ensure they are referred to appropriate services. It is also important that under the new health structures appropriate planning takes place to ensure the overall health needs of people with a learning disability, including their eye health, are fully taken into account when local services are being planned and commissioned." 

Paula Spinks-Chamberlain, Director of SeeAbility’s Specialist Services, commented: 

 “Our research shows that there are an estimated one million adults in the UK with learning disabilities. They are 10 times more likely than the rest of the population to be blind or partially sighted and 6 out of 10 will need glasses, and people with severe or profound learning disabilities are the most likely to have serious sight problems.
"SeeAbility welcomes the launch of this local pathway and we urge local health planners and local Clinical Commissioning Groups to adopt it and enable people with learning disabilities to choose from a list of local practices where appropriately trained and accredited practitioners will deliver a high quality sight test.”

The Pathway is available at www.locsu.co.uk 


Notes to editors: 

  •  Copies of SeeAbilty’s ‘Telling the optometrist about me form’ and other forms  are available at  http://www.lookupinfo.org/forms_booklets/
  •  ¹Facts about prevalence: Research commissioned by SeeAbility and RNIB in 2011   (Estimated Prevalence of Visual Impairment among People with Learning Disabilities in England Eric Emerson and Janet Robertson) found that:-
  • It is estimated that there are 1,447,300 people with learning disabilities in the UK
  • People with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have serious sight problems than other people. People with severe or profound learning disabilities are most likely to have sight problems
    • An estimated 579,000 adults with learning disabilities (including 122,000 known to the statutory services) have refractive error
    • This means that nearly 6 out of 10 people with learning disabilities need glasses
    • An estimated 53,300 adults with learning disabilities (including 19,000 known to the statutory services) have severe refractive error 
    • An estimated 22,200 adults with learning disabilities have severe myopia. This means that one in 50 adults with learning disabilities have severe short sightedness
  • Recent studies have shown that the estimated prevalence of visual impairment or significant refractive error in people with learning disabilities is 52.43% in children, 62.3% in 20-49 age group and 70.1% in the over 50s – far higher than for the population as a whole  (www.mencap.org.uk/all-about-learning-disability/about-learning-disability
  • The Pathway is available here
  •  Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) supports Local and Regional Optical Committees (LOCs/ROCs) across England and Wales 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.
  • Details of training to support eye health professionals participating in the Pathway is currently being finalised with SeeAbility

 Media enquiries
Jenny Manchester, Communications Manager at LOCSU, on jennymanchester@locsu.co.uk or call 07703 677697



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