Politicians urged to prioritise national eye care plan

Posted: Sunday 17 December 2023
Westminster Eye Health Day 2023

The spotlight was turned on eye health in the Houses of Parliament this month as MPs faced urgent calls to improve NHS eye care services and prevent avoidable sight loss.

The Macular Society joined fellow members of The Eyes Have It Partnership in Westminster to present the ‘Laying the foundations for the future of eye health in England’ report to MPs and Stakeholders in the sector.

The third annual Westminster Eye Health Day, organised by the partnership, served as a launchpad for the new report, which calls for a national plan to improve eye care and take action on the ongoing capacity issues facing ophthalmology.

The Eyes Have It partnership, formed to address the capacity crisis as eye care is now the busiest outpatient specialty in the NHS in England, and demand for eye care services is continuing to grow.

Laying the foundations for the future of eye health 

The new report highlights key issues facing people affected by sight loss and identifies key recommendations for policymaker. Recommendations include better data and connectivity; prevention, diagnosis, and early treatment; equity of access throughout the patient pathway; challenges faced by the eye care workforce; new technologies and treatment models; investment into research for future treatments, and the availability of treatments at large.

At the event, Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Vision Impairment, said it was vital that government and ministers were engaged on the need for a national strategy.

She highlighted how England is the only country in the UK that does not currently have an eye health strategy, and emphasised that the report offers a blueprint for this.

"Together we must push for change"  

“We are all united in the change that we all want to see across the sector,” she said. “From industry to health to the voluntary sector, together we must continue to push for this change within eye health, and push for elements of the strategy to be included in all manifestos for all political parties ahead of the general election in 2024.

“Our message is simple: everyone should have access to high quality eye health care when and where they need it.”

The Eyes Have It, a partnership of Roche, Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation, the Macular Society, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the Association of Optometrists and the RNIB, commissioned the report to highlight the current challenges and provide solutions to support the NHS, with an aim of improving patient care.

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “We’re addressing all political parties and it’s quite a powerful argument that we’re putting forward.

She added: “We’re beginning to get a little bit of traction on this. We’re not giving up yet.”

The Eyes Have It will continue to call upon the Government to develop a much-needed national eye care plan for England, and coordinated action across the four nations.