A HIGH profile delegation of eyehealth specialists, government officials and sight loss charities held a conference this week in an effort to eradicate preventable sight loss in Scotland.
The conference, held in Stirling, reviewed the country’s Vision Strategy against a backdrop of deepening spending cuts.
The strategy, developed by a wide alliance of health and social care professionals, voluntary organisations, civil servants and service users, aims to improve eye health and eliminate avoidable sight loss.
Delegates heard that although Scotland remains a world leader in many aspects of eye‐care, the number of Scots who are blind or partially sighted is projected to double over the next two decades.
This would mean over 360,000 people with significant sight loss, mainly due to an ageing population and persistently poor health record.
Already one in six hospital appointments in some Scottish hospitals are for eye problems and the charity is urging that free eye‐examinations – introduced in Scotland in 2006 as a UK first – are preserved, the conference heard.
These can also detect general health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure which can lead to sight problems later on. John Legg, director of sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, said the Vision Strategy set its targets high from the outset and had made tangible advances.
Legg pointed to a new £6.6m Scottish Government initiative to build high‐tech digital links between high street opticians and ophthalmology departments over the next 10 years.
A pilot scheme by NHS Fife, the first of its kind in the UK, resulted in much faster referrals for patients who needed immediate hospital treatment and certainly saved sight in some cases.
“It’s much more cost‐effective to spend money preventing sight loss than looking after someone who may face decades of life with a visual impairment,” he said.
“The Christie Commission reckoned that as much as 40 per cent of all public service spending could be avoided by a preventative approach. In recommending spending now to minimise the costs of future health and social problems, it nailed a crucial truth.
“Focusing on consequences rather than causes has a high cost for society and a high cost for public services.”
Last year, 1.8 million people had free eye examinations, and 80,000 were referred on for further potentially sight‐saving treatment. Recent research, however, has emphasised that more must be done to get people on low incomes to go for regular examinations.
|Haggeye is the focus of national youth forum|
|AN award-winning youth forum for blind and partially sighted people in Scotland assembled in Edinburgh last week to discuss issues affecting young people with sight loss.
Haggeye, whose members are aged between 12 and 25, was only launched five years ago but has already won three major awards.
Members met with over 60 other blind and partially sighted young people from across the UK to exchange views and discuss what activities have proven most effective.
Mo Colvin, youth engagement officer for the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland, of which Haggeye is part, said: “We want to raise the profile, promote awareness and increase opportunities for youth engagement within RNIB throughout the UK. Haggeye is a great chance for young people living with sight loss to come together, share stories, participate in activities, campaign for change and find a collective voice.”
In 2010, the project won a prestigious Philip Lawrence Award for establishing an atmosphere of trust between generations and cultures.