Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Charity calls for commissioners to deliver better eye health services for people with learning disabilities

eye test Clinical commissioning group (CCGs) commissioners should do more to commission adapted sight tests for people with learning disabilities, a charity has claimed.

Figures from the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) and sight loss charity SeeAbility reveal just 6 out of 210 CCGs have commissioned longer, adapted sight tests for people with learning disabilities, with one in the north of England and the remainder in greater London.

The organisations warn that this leaves nearly one million people with learning disabilities in England without accessible sight tests.

Latest figures reveal that almost 60% of people with learning disabilities accessing an adapted sight test needed spectacles, with one third having new eye health issues identified.

LOCSU and SeeAbility are calling on CCGs in England to commission the learning disabilities pathway so more high-street opticians can offer accessible eye care services for everyone who needs them.

Katrina Venerus, managing director of LOCSU, said: “People with learning disabilities urgently need local commissioners to fund more high street opticians to offer services that are designed for them.

“Serious sight problems are 10 times more common among people with learning disabilities and have a disproportionate impact on the quality of life they can lead. This is a real but avoidable issue.

“In theory, opticians’ services are available to everyone. However, people with learning disabilities are often excluded, as they can find it impossible to access services that are not designed specifically for their needs, such as pre-site familiarisation visits.

“Effective intervention from an optometrist to correct vision problems can dramatically improve a patient’s communication and motor skills, making day-to-day living much easier.”

David Scott-Ralphs, chief executive of SeeAbility, added: “Lack of access to regular eye care puts people with learning disabilities at risk of unnecessary sight loss. This has significant consequences.

“Someone who is losing their sight yet unable to communicate what is happening can become confused, frustrated or angry. They can lose their confidence, stop going out or give up on activities that they have enjoyed as their sight diminishes. As a result a person can need increasing care and support. This is all avoidable.”

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