An expert group, formed to review the future of eye health in Ireland has called on the Irish government to implement specific recommendations focused on eliminating avoidable sight loss.
The National Coalition for Vision Health in Ireland1 has launched the Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach for Vision Health in Ireland which highlighted:
• Over 220,000 people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired
• This number is expected to increase by 20% by 2020 – despite 75% of blindness being preventable
• The Government has just seven years to eliminate avoidable blindness wherever possible, since it is committed to the World Health Organisation (WHO) objectives of Vision 2020.
• People with vision loss are up to eight times more likely to fracture a hip and three times more likely to be depressed
• 2020’s annual vision impairment costs are expected to be over €2.5 billion a year
• Specialist optical doctor staffing levels need to be improved – they predict that an extra 19 consultant ophthalmologists are needed in Irish hospitals and 14 community ophthalmologists are needed.
The vision health group is recommending eight principles to direct any future development of vision health support and services in Ireland:
• Any future strategy should be all-encompassing and include all eye health problems/diseases for both children and adults
• Quality and safety need to be maximised for anyone accessing services
• Services should be person-centred
• Patients should have choice and control and the ability to live fulfilled lives
• Seamless service pathways should be put in place
• Evidence-based approaches and equality of access should be prioritised
• Research should also be prioritised
• The strategic development of eye health should be aligned with the wider public health policy framework
While the expert group acknowledged that attempts are being made by the Government to improve eye health services, such as the upcoming roll-out of the HSE’s diabetic retinopathy screening programme, they state that “these developments are long overdue, as the UK introduced a similar screening programme ten years ago, for example.”
The National Coalition for Vision Health in Ireland, has been created by the NCBI (the national sight loss organisation), Fighting Blindness and people working in vision-related advocacy and healthcare.