Award-winning Special Eye Care Service Starts Work
16 June 2021
SeeAbility, has recently won the Heathcare and Medical Research Charity of the Year at the prestigious Charity Awards 2021. This was in recognition of their pioneering work with NHSE to provide eye tests for children in special schools in England.
The service, delivered by an Eye Care Team, will enable every child and young person to get the most from their vision, including sight tests, and the dispensing and fitting of glasses – all completed on the school premises – and help to address the health inequalities they experience.
NHS England has recently been asking for expressions of interest for this fully funded service.
Since April 2021, NHS England’s North West regional team have been awarding contracts to teams of optometrists and dispensing opticians to provide a Special Schools Eye Care Service in the region. 16 optometrists and 12 dispensing opticians, including a team from Warrington Hospital, are providing services in the first North West schools to receive the service, which have a total pupil population of 1,410.
The North East and North Cumbria (NENC) LOCs were approached in Dec 2020 by NHSE to help promote involvement in the new special school’s service to the optical professional workforce across the region. NTW LOC led on this, with support from North Cumbria LOC for the NENC and later NE&Y working through the regional LOC Forum.
Stephanie Cairns, Chair of Northumberland, Tyne & Wear LOC told us:
“We held a number of meetings with Gavin Rathmell, Programme Manager, Optical Commissioning for NHSE to help us understand how the service would run. We used our local distribution lists to provide our members with information as we received it. We also posted ‘watch this space’ across local optical social media. As the official NHSE flyers and launch event details were sent to LOC’s we also pushed this out across our network and worked with the ABDO regional lead.”
The service in the North East and Yorkshire Region is due to launch in September 2021.
LOCSU’s interim Clinical Director Zoe Richmond said:
“I’m pleased to see NHS England bring vision assessments to young people with learning disability in the north-west. It’s great that this important programme is rolling-out across England.”
Children and young people with learning disabilities and/or autism often have difficulty ‘seeing the world’ in the same way as other children/young people. This service will help to identify these issues and support teachers, parents and children/young people to use their vision in the best way, helping them with communication skills, mobility and independence.
- 44% of children with learning disabilities and autism have never received an eye test
- 28x children with learning disabilities and autism are 28x more likely to have serious sight issues
- 50% of children tested in a special school environment had a problem with their vision
- 30% or more of those tested required prescription glasses to remedy their vision problems
An Eye Care Team will comprise of an Optometrist and a Dispensing Optician working in schools to deliver sight tests and dispense glasses, all funded by the NHS. The fee per test has been designed to reflect the extra time needed to perform sight tests with this cohort of children.
Clinicians becoming part of an Eye Care Team will undergo bespoke training with the charity, SeeAbility, to ensure they are fully equipped to deliver the service.