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Concern lockdown may have increased preventable sight loss

With postponed waiting lists for hospital eye appointments across Britain a third higher than before the covid crisis, there are fears that some people will have lost sight that might previously have been saved

Today an online gathering of eye-health professionals will discuss the future of sight loss provision in Scotland and how the backlog may be tackled.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd MSP will address over 130 participants at the Scottish Vision Strategy event this morning, hosted by a range of leading sight loss charities.

Ms Todd said: “We have a shared goal of improving access to health and social care services for people of all ages affected by sight loss. Events such as this bring people together from across the sector and are so important for discussing ideas, sharing experiences and making progress.

“We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively to ensure that everyone in Scotland living with sight loss has a positive experience when accessing the necessary support and services, helping them to live independently.”

Around 178,000 people are currently living in Scotland with some degree of significant sight loss.

Discussion at today's event will range from modernising the system for quickly referring patients for sight-saving treatments, to the need for more support for those coming to terms with losing some or all of their vision.

In a video to be shown to participants, Bruce Christie (56) from Aberdeenshire will talk about his own experience of losing sight at the age of 36 and how it affected his mental health.

"We're talking about the loss of one of the five senses - and the profound effect that can have on one's life - so I do think some form of ongoing support should be available," he will say. "Try walking around your house with your eyes shut. Try cooking and chopping vegetables when you can't see what you're doing. Just pouring water into a glass is a very real challenge for me because my depth perception is limited now.

"It's surely easier and more effective to deal with someone in the early stages of learning how to live with their sight loss, than later with someone who may be suicidal because of it. And while that may sound dramatic, it is a very real possibility."

James Adams, director of sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, said the enforced delays to people receiving treatment that could arrest damage to their vision was a very worrying consequence of the covid crisis.

"We need to make our eye-care services as streamlined and effective as we can, to diagnose and prevent sight loss where possible, and - where it can't - ensure the support is in place to help people live fully and independent lives."

Today's event is being hosted by a range of leading sight loss organisation, including RNIB Scotland, Guide Dogs Scotland, Sight Scotland, the ALLIANCE Scottish Sensory Hub, Visibility Scotland and Visionary.