EXPERTS warn the impact of the pandemic is a ‘ticking time bomb’ on eye health, as new data is released.
Specsavers London Divisional Chair, Kam Khambay is highlighting the stark findings from a national report* which shows there were 4.3 million fewer eye appointments during the pandemic – with 111,908 of missed appointments at Specsavers across Central London
The State of the UK’s Eye Health Report 2021, commissioned by Specsavers in collaboration with leading eye health experts and charities, counts not only the additional financial burden now facing society as a result of the pandemic, but more worryingly, the very real cost to people’s sight.
UK wide, it shows that almost 3,000 people (2,986) are estimated to have lost their sight due to delayed identification and treatment of eye disease during the pandemic and more than 300,000 (316,000) people have missed referrals for ophthalmology services . It predicts that there will be a £2.5 billion estimated additional economic cost of sight loss and blindness due to the pandemic between 2021 and 2024 .
Mr Khambay says: ‘As comprehensive as this report is, we, along with our colleagues and partners across the eye health sector, suspect these early findings are just the tip of the iceberg.
‘The pandemic meant that eye care services in the UK were withdrawn, reduced or restricted, and despite Specsavers being open for care throughout the pandemic, our stores alongside other high street opticians, saw a drop of almost 25% in eye tests across the sector.
‘This has led to a reduction in referrals and the treatment of serious, and sometimes symptomless, eye conditions that can lead to irreversible and permanent sight loss if not detected and managed in time. The eye health sector, and the NHS, has a ticking time bomb on its hands.’
The findings are being reflected locally with up to date figures showing 213,000 people are living with sight loss in London. It also shows 69,400 have glaucoma, 336,500 have age-related macular degeneration and 63,800 have cataracts. Yet, despite this many people in London are still not making their eye health a priority.
Ahead of National Eye Health Week (September 20th – 26th) Specsavers commissioned research, carried out by OnePoll , which reveals 52% of people in London have delayed having an eye test, knowing that they were due to have one or feeling like they should have one.
Reasons for doing so included fearing being told their eyesight had worsened (26%) and being frightened about being told they had a more serious condition (24%). However 43% said they would be annoyed at themselves for ignoring the symptoms of an irreversible health condition.
In fact, 31% of people in London have experienced floaters, 29% have experienced headaches and migraines and 31% have noticed their eyes were red, itchy and sore during this period of time.
Many people in London (20%) have also ignored or tolerated symptoms including eyelid twitches. And worryingly 36% of people think they might have a serious underlying sight issue that they haven’t had looked at because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Professor Bernie Chang, President of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists said, ‘Congratulations for producing this useful report. All organisations in the eye health sector recognise the need to work together, ensuring that pathways are led by the highest standards of clinical governance to benefit patients. The vision statement from The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and The College of Optometrists, sets out how primary and secondary care providers can continue to develop effective and innovative ways of delivering high quality patient care, to reduce avoidable sight loss.’
Specsavers London Divisional Chair, Kam Khambay adds: ‘Regular eye tests are so important. If people in the London region have missed their appointment during the pandemic, I urge them to book. We are still adhering to strict safety precautions in every one of our stores. It’s important people keep having regular appointments – even if they don’t think anything is wrong – as many conditions are symptomless in the early stages.’