Eye health crisis set to deepen, say RNIB and Specsavers

One in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidablei, warns a new report published by Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Specsavers.

The report is due to be unveiled today (7 September) at an event hosted by the transforming eye health partnership of RNIB and Specsavers in London.

The alarming new statistics show that 250 people in the UK start living with sight loss every day. Women who tend to live longer are at greater risk than men, with one in four women set to develop sight loss in their lifetime compared with one in eight menii.

Almost six million people in the UK currently live with sight-threatening conditionsiii yet 25 per cent of people are not having an eye test every two yearsiv as recommended by the College of Optometristsv.

RNIB acting CEO Sally Harvey says: ‘Our report reveals new evidence that one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime, so our work is now more important than ever. The eye health crisis looks set to deepen and the cost burden is destined to soar unless urgent action is taken.

‘Almost 80 per cent of people living with sight loss are over the age of 64vi, so with an ageing population that is expected to retire later, more of our national workforce will be impacted by sight loss. Alongside rapidly growing demand for eye care services, and capacity problems in some clinics at a time of growing budget deficits, we are facing an extremely challenging time for eye health in the UK, and we must take action now.

‘We will continue to press for integrated services and effective referral and treatment for local communities as a key way of tackling the capacity problems in hospital eye departments. We will champion active planning that is based on the eye health needs of local communities and we will present conclusions from our policy roundtables to a parliamentary inquiry on eye health services.’

The State Of The Nation Eye Health 2017: A Year in Review report, launched ahead of National Eye Health Week (18 – 24 September), is an annual benchmark of Britain’s eye health by RNIB and Specsavers, who joined forces in 2016 to raise awareness of the importance of eye health at every level to help prevent avoidable sight loss.

While a YouGov survey commissioned for the report suggests 1.1 millionvii more people took action to improve their eye health by visiting an optician since the campaign launched last September, there is much still to be done, according to Specsavers founder Doug Perkins.

An optometrist for more than 50 years, he says: ‘We are calling on political leaders, senior decision makers in health and social care, and local champions to work together to ensure that people receive timely treatment to prevent avoidable sight loss.


‘Without this leadership the eye health crisis will continue to worsen and patients’ sight will be put increasingly at risk, deepening the economic burden that we already estimate will rise from £28 billion today if nothing is done now.’

  • Sight is the nation’s most precious sense by far; ten times more people (seventy eight per cent of people) said sight was the sense they fear losing most compared to the next most popular sense, smell (eight per cent), followed by hearing (seven per cent)
  • Almost a quarter of people are ignoring the first signs of sight loss; despite not being able to see as well in the distance or close up as they used to, twenty three per cent have not sought advice from an optician or medical professional
  • More than eighty per cent of people are not aware that an optician can spot the early signs of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the UK
  • People put their boiler before their eye health; half of UK adults have their boiler serviced once a year, over a third renew their mobile phone contract every two years, while fifty per cent of UK adults last had their eyes tested more than a year ago or never
  • Research suggests Brits check their teeth more often than their eyes; forty two per cent visit the dentist once every six months (equating to four times over two years) while twenty five per cent of UK adults haven’t had an eye test in the past two years or at all
  • A quarter of people who spend £50 a year on shoes would not be prepared to pay anything at all for an eye test

The report, written by RNIB and Specsavers and supplemented by an independent YouGov poll of 6,430 UK adults, was unveiled at an event hosted by the partnership in London today.

  • References
    i. Access Economics, 2009. Future sight loss UK: The economic impact of partial sight and blindness in the UK adult population. UK: RNIB
    ii. This is primarily due to the fact that women have a greater life expectancy.
    iii. The State of the Nation Eye Health 2017: a year in review, Specsavers/RNIB
    iv. YouGov Survey commissioned by Specsavers and RNIB 23rd June -7th July 2017 of 6,430 UK adults aged 18+
    v. The State of the Nation Eye Health 2016, Specsavers/RNIB
    vi. The State of the Nation Eye Health 2016, Specsavers/RNIB
    vii. YouGov Survey commissioned by Specsavers and RNIB 23rd June -7th July 2017 of 6,430 UK adults aged 18+. Specsavers calculation based on the Office of National Statistics’ 2015 and 2016 UK 18+ population estimates. 2015 population estimate for those who have been for an eye test in past year = 51339161 x 0.4567 = 23,446,594.83. 2016 population estimate for those who have been for an eye test in past year = 51767543 x 0.4750 = 24,589,582.93. 24,589,582.93 – 23,446,594.83 = 1,142,988.10

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