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Registered blind and partially sighted people and CVI England 22-23

This briefing includes a UK overview of the number of registered blind and partially sighted people with headline data for individual countries.

Key finding - UK

There are 322,638 registered blind and partially sighted people in the UK. This is based on the latest available data in all the nations.

Some key findings - England

There was a total of 268,500 people registered blind or partially sighted in England as of 31 March 2023. This is a 3 per cent decrease compared to 2019/20.

There were 20,330 new registrations in 2022/23 in England. Again, this is a slight (3 per cent) decrease compared to 2019/20.

Being "registered” with your local social services as ‘sight impaired’ or ‘severely sight impaired’ is optional, therefore, registration is not a measure of prevalence. It only indicates how many people went through an administrative process to register.

A combination of wider demographic changes means that a decrease in registrations is an unexpected trend. The number of people impacted by sight loss is due to increase dramatically by 2050:

  • The risk factors associated with sight loss (e.g. aging, diabetes, low-income) are all increasing.
  • Increased ophthalmology waiting times provide an additional risk factor associated with sight loss. The latest available NHS England waiting list figures for ophthalmology show that 615,120 people were waiting in December 2023. Please note this figure represents people being referred for a first appointment with a consultant ophthalmologist, rather than wider ophthalmology waiting times for ongoing follow-up and monitoring.
  • There were thousands fewer Certificates of Vision Impairment (CVIs) during the pandemic which have shown no sign of appearing within the data despite hospital eye care services returning to pre-covid capacity levels.

In England, there are 11 local authorities where the total number of registered blind and partially sighted people have more than halved.

The UK National Eye-Health and Hearing Study will provide up-to-date, robust data on the prevalence of sight loss; however, we cannot expect findings for at least a couple of years.

Certification and registration are two distinct and separate processes. A CVI formally certifies that someone has sight loss. Registration is carried out by local authorities and means being on their register of people who are either severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted). An individual can only be registered once they have obtained a CVI.

Despite the reduction in new registrations, there is no evidence of any decline in the number of CVIs issued each year. Instead, there is a decline in the conversion rate of CVIs to new registrations, which has dropped from 90 percent in 2019/20 to 85 percent in 2022/23.

CVIs form part of an indication of the incidence of sight loss. Comparing CVI to registration conversation figures suggests there is no indication of a downward trend in incidence, rather that fewer people are completing the full registration process. This is concerning as registration is the primary method by which someone with acquired sight loss becomes known to social care agencies and is typically the gateway to vision rehabilitation services, as registration triggers a Vision Rehabilitation assessment.