The Vision Van in Edinburgh

Epidemic in sight? Concern for UK eye health

Vision Express is urging the UK public to realise the importance of regular sight tests as results from its latest campaign highlight a worrying neglect for eye health.

The national optician’s Vision Van was back on the road for a UK tour during World Glaucoma Week, in a bid to improve the country’s prospects for the condition. Glaucoma is one of the biggest causes of preventable sight loss, yet the results from the week showed that many people are risking their vision – with 73% of visitors to the van found to not be maintaining regular eye tests.

Worse still, 22% of those tested admitted to never having had their sight checked.

Jonathan Lawson, Vision Express CEO, commented: “We’re shocked that over a fifth of people tested on the Vision Van have never had an eye test – this shows a worrying neglect for eye health. If this is reflective of the national picture, then we could soon have an epidemic of people suffering from sight-stealing conditions.

“We hit a record number of daily online bookings in the week following the tour, which shows there’s a real need for initiatives like this that raise awareness of the conditions an eye test can detect,” Jonathan continued. “We hope that taking the van on tour again has made more people consider maintaining regular sight check-ups.”

During the campaign, the Vision Van visited Manchester, York, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stockton-On-Tees, after each city was identified as having an increased prevalence of the silent sight-threatening condition. It is the third year Vision Express has targeted UK hotspots in its Vision Van and it continues to be an important initiative as more conditions are detected.

Nearly half (47%) of those tested on the van had an out of date prescription, with almost one in seven referred for further medical attention. Referrals were made for suspected glaucoma and other eye health issues such as reduced vision, dry eye and a freckle on the eye, all requiring further investigation.

“We were really impressed that so many visitors to the van came because they had read about it in their local paper and were concerned about their sight or that they could have glaucoma,” Jonathan added. “What’s clear is that eyesight overall is a sense people don’t want to lose but many aren’t doing enough to safeguard it. In fact, statistics tell us that blindness is one of the public’s biggest fears, and for 53% of those living with sight loss, a simple sight test and new glasses could make all the difference.

“Research shows that 37% put off having an eye test due to cost concern[1], so by taking this essential health check to the people and offering it for free, we have set aside the affordability issue.

“Equally worrying is in Scotland’s two largest cities, where the NHS eye test is free of charge, there appears to be low awareness of that fact. In Edinburgh alone, 73% of residents were unaware they could have their eyes tested on the NHS.”

During World Glaucoma Week 2017, Vision Express offered free eye tests to all, with more than double (118%) the average weekly number of eye tests booked online throughout the campaign – with the following week seeing the highest number of daily online bookings in the optician’s history.

Results from the Vision Express Vision Van tour for World Glaucoma Week 2017 reveal:

  • 47% of those tested needed a new prescription
  • 14% were referred for further medical attention or secondary testing
  • 22% admitted to having never had an eye test
  • 73% are not maintaining regular eye tests
  • 73% of Edinburgh residents were unaware eye tests are available free of charge on the NHS in Scotland
  • The average weekly number of eye tests booked on the Vision Express website increased by 118% during World Glaucoma Week.

[1] 2008: State of the Nations Eyes Study – The Eyecare Trust

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