Improved eye care demanded for people with learning disabilities

Post date: 
Thursday, 17 September 2015

A report is calling for more to be done to improve eye care for people with learning disabilities. 

The appeal by SeeAbility and Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) follows a tri-borough pilot in the capital that assessed more than 100 sight tests. 
The results showed more than half of people with learning disabilities recorded eye problems that could have led to sight loss and just under two thirds required glasses.
Authors are calling upon clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to introduce more eye care pathways. Currently, just four CCGs have commissioned the services which offer longer, specially adapted sight tests for people with learning disabilities.
“People with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have serious sight problems than other people,” said Katrina Venerus, Managing Director of LOCSU.
“The tri-borough pilot identified a high prevalence of treatable eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and keratoconus.” 
The concern is that if left unidentified and untreated, these eye conditions will worsen and lead to higher health and social care costs. With so many people with learning disabilities not receiving regular eye care, the risks of sight loss for this group are greatly increased.
“SeeAbility is aware that the standard sight test is not always accessible for people who have learning disabilities. Many people need the optometrist to allow them more time in order to establish their needs, to explain testing procedures and to communicate results in a clear and accessible manner,” explained David Scott-Ralphs, Chief Executive of SeeAbility.
The SeeAbility-led pilot of the LOCSU eye care pathway carried out 104 sight tests in the areas of Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster. The pathway involves local optometrists providing specially-adapted sight tests that are accessible for people with learning disabilities. 
The key findings included that: 
  • Thirty per cent of all people were referred on to their GP or hospital eye service for an eye health or other health issue.
  • Following their sight test, 63 per cent of individuals are now wearing prescribed glasses.
  • For 50 per cent of people, the date of their previous sight test was more than two years ago or unknown. 

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