A major report highlights the urgent challenge facing eye health services and calls on NHS England to appoint a National Clinical Director for Eye Health.
Better Vision for All, produced by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Pharmaceutical Ophthalmology Initiative (POPI), was compiled based on desk research and in-depth interviews with over twenty key stakeholders in the eye health community and makes a number of recommendations to inform change within the new system.
The POPI group is formed of companies with a special interest in eye health and it aims to work with others to raise the standard of eye care in the UK.
The number of people registered as blind or partially sighted is rising fast. The NHS needs to adapt to meet this challenge if we are to avoid people losing their sight unnecessarily but the complexity of eye care delivery, spanning primary, secondary and social care and involving a mix of private and NHS providers, makes this difficult. A National Clinical Director for Eye Health, working inclusively and providing strategic leadership across the sector from within NHS England, is needed.
Lord Low, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment said: "With a service as fragmented as eye health, a National Clinical Director, supported by an advisory National Eye Health Network, is essential. "Without a leader to drive the implementation of change, as has proven successful in services for cancer and cardiovascular disease, the system will fail to withstand the increasing pressures it faces and more patients will needlessly lose their sight."
The total cost of sight loss to the UK economy is estimated at £22 billion. Reports of rationing and delays to treatment, acknowledged by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS Medical Director, suggest that the system is already struggling to cope with demand.
Demographic and other factors indicate the situation is only likely to get worse. An aging population and sharp rises in diabetes and obesity, which are known risk factors for sight loss, point towards the future health and economic burden of sight loss and the impact this will have on associated services.
Joe Brice, Chair of the POPI group, said: "What comes out clearly in 'Better Vision for All' is the strength of opinion about fragmented services in eye care. We hope that this consensus will help bring about change, with the potential for stronger national leadership to put services on a more sustainable footing across the country to meet rapidly growing demand to the benefit of patients."