Boots Opticians Green Paper calls for improved Children’s Eye Health Provision in the UK
Friday, 4 November 2016
Children’s eye health should be the shared responsibility of all professionals working with children, says a new Green Paper by Boots Opticians.
Vision problems don’t just affect children’s eyesight; they can affect their education and literacy, their health and wellbeing, and their ability to engage in sports.
Vision problems can even adversely impact upon their employability when they grow older. Yet, despite evidence that childhood myopia is on the rise, having doubled since the 1960’s, too few children get the help they need.
Research has found that a quarter of parents said their child had never had an eye test. Additionally, many parents mistakenly believe their children are still receiving vision screening at school but whether this vision screening happens is a postcode lottery depending on your local authority.
Seeing the future, with input from sector experts such as Professor Maggie Woodhouse OBE, demonstrates that there is a fundamental need for broader action. The Green Paper calls on parliamentarians, policy-makers, commissioners and optical sector colleagues to work together to implement the paper’s recommendations.
The Green Paper calls for:
Local authorities and national bodies to improve education and information for parents and carers
Better training on the importance of eye health for all professionals working with children
School governors to maximise the resources and external support available to promote eye health such as free vision check tools
Mandatory commissioning of a fully funded vision screening programme for all children aged four to five
More services that are currently delivered in secondary care to move into the community so that only children with the most complex needs are referred onwards, speeding up diagnosis and treatment
Changes to the current NHS voucher system to enable children and young people to access the full range of vision correction solutions such as additional pairs where clinically necessary, contact lenses, sports eyewear
Providers to ensure their services are accessible to children and young people, through investment in technology, staff training and the design of services
Ben Fletcher, Managing Director, Boots Opticians, comments: “We know that so much more can be done to reach and identify vision problems in our children thus giving them an equal start in life. Having good vision can help children to perform better at school, become more involved in sports and grow in confidence.
“Boots Opticians cannot fix this problem alone. I believe that partnership and collaboration is the key to making a significant impact upon the long-term life chances, health and wellbeing of children both now and in the future. This is the goal that we are working towards and investing in; this Green Paper is one more step towards achieving it.”
Leading the way, Boots Opticians is already tackling the challenges with direct action. Through a partnership with the National Literacy Trust, they have given away half a million copies of Zookeeper Zoe, an interactive story containing eye check activities for parents to read with their children to help identify if a full eye examination might be needed.
The Schools Challenge has also been created providing two days of colleague time a year which helps schools directly through activities such as reading with children and providing classroom sessions to help children learn more about eye health.
Schools are further supported by the Boots Schools Vision Screening Programme which provides web-based resources that enable schools to carry out vision checks and advise parents when a referral for a full eye exam is recommended.