FREE eye tests in Scotland have led to people being saved from blindness and visual impairment according to research by Aberdeen University.
Before free eye checks were introduced, fewer Scots had their eyes tested than people in other parts of the UK.
However, just two years later, the relative difference had reduced, the research found.
But the findings also reveal that the impact has been unevenly spread and more must be done to encourage the least well off to have their eyes checked, including the marginalised and isolated elderly.
Eye examinations can play a crucial role in identifying sight loss conditions early on when they can be arrested or reversed, as well as other health problems such as brain tumours, said the charity’s director John Legg.
“What we commonly refer to as eye tests are more accurately eye health checks. This research proves that the policy has led to more Scots, overall, having their eyes examined.
“We know that this has led to more people’s sight problems and other conditions being diagnosed in time to treat them. This is more cost-effective than meeting the health and social costs of people who might otherwise go on to lose vision or suffer ill-health unnecessarily.
“But it also reveals that we still have a job to do to get this important message across to the least advantaged members of society, especially those who are more likely to suffer ill-health, smoke or have a bad diet. All of these factors can exacerbate sight problems.”
RNIB Scotland has warned that without increased emphasis on prevention, the number of Scots with significant sight loss could double over the next two decades.
“Free eye examinations have unquestionably improved the health of Scotland,” insisted Legg. “We now need to ensure everyone understands just how important getting your eyes tested regularly really is.”