Slight loss among residents in North West towns is contributing towards a national hit to the UK economy of £28billion annually, according to a new report from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Specsavers.
The report also found that almost a third (29%) of people across the North West region hadn’t had an eye test in the last two years, as recommended by experts.
The State of the Nation: Eye Health 2016 report found the £28billion figure, which has soared from £22billion when last calculated in 2008, could be significantly reduced by better public take-up of routine eye tests, and by earlier diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions.
The report also found that more than half (55%) of those asked across the North West said the reason they hadn’t had an eye test in the last two years was because they didn’t have time, hadn’t got round to it or didn’t think there was anything wrong with their eyes. This is despite 81% of people across the region agreeing that a routine eye test could save someone’s sight.
Only 31% of people knew that a typical high street optician could check for general health problems as part of a sight test and the report also revealed a significant lack of knowledge across the region regarding the impact smoking can have on sight. Almost half (47%) of those asked in the North West said they didn’t think or didn’t know that smoking could damage their sight.
Most comprehensive recent report
Written by RNIB, supported by Specsavers and supplemented by an independent YouGov poll* of more than 10,000 UK adults, the State of the Nation: Eye Health 2016 report is the most significant and comprehensive insight into the health of the nation’s eyes in recent years. It supports a £3m multi-media public health awareness campaign by RNIB and Specsavers to transform eye health and reduce preventable sight loss in the UK.
More than six million people in the UK live with sight-threatening conditions or uncorrected refractive error. Some may not yet be experiencing any symptoms and may have no idea that anything is wrong. Of these, more than two million people are living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily lives. This figure is set to increase to more than 2.7 million by 2030, driven by an increase in the UK’s ageing demographic. Although nearly half of all cases of sight loss in the UK could have been prevented, 14 million people in Britain are not having an eye test as recommended at least every two years.
Challenging time for eye health
RNIB acting CEO Sally Harvey said: ‘An ageing population, rapidly growing demand for eye health and care services, and capacity problems in some clinics at a time of growing budget deficits, means that we are facing an extremely challenging time for eye health in the UK.
‘Improving eye health is an enormous challenge but we must rise to it and take action now to stop people needlessly losing their sight.
‘Regular eye tests and early detection on the high street, followed by timely intervention and management of eye health conditions, could help to save sight as well as saving the public purse millions of pounds each year.’
Prevention is key
Specsavers’ North West regional chair, Paul Stanway, said: ‘It’s astonishing that so many people are needlessly living with or at risk of sight loss in the North West today. Nearly half of all sight loss cases are preventable – and a simple eye test can be the first step in prevention.
‘Our mission with RNIB is to transform the nation’s eye health through education, awareness and action; we want to reverse these worrying eye health trends that are putting unnecessary pressure on the health service.
‘That’s why we have invested £3 million to educate people about the importance of looking after their eye health. Prevention is critical. We don’t care where people have an eye test, we just care that they do.’
Transforming Eye Health awareness campaign
RNIB and Specsavers’ Transforming Eye Health awareness campaign, was launched at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Low of Dalston, CBE, Co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment.
It was attended by leading figures from the optical, healthcare and charitable professions, including RNIB President Dame Gail Ronson DBE, RNIB Vice-President, and campaign ambassador Lady Penny Lancaster-Stewart, as well as Specsavers co-founders Doug and Dame Mary Perkins.