Friday 23 March 2018

'No alternative' for parents as free routine eye tests end for fifth and sixth class children

Stock image (Photo: Getty Images)
Stock image (Photo: Getty Images)
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Free routine eye tests for fifth and sixth class children have ended, the Health Executive Service has confirmed.

The Association of Optometrists Ireland has said it is "disappointed" by plans to cut the service.

Lynda McGivney Nolan, optometric adviser with the AOI, said: “The issue is that the sixth class screening was ineffective but you can’t get rid of it and not introduce anything else.”

At present children receive two eye-exams while in primary school, one in senior infants as part of an overall health check, and a second eye test in fifth or sixth class.

Nolan also described the service as being “ad-hoc” as the service is only available in certain parts of the country, but not nationwide.

Nolan said that children can be on the waiting list from anything from a few months to six years depending on where you live.

“I have a boy at home with a significant squint who has been waiting a year and still hasn’t been seen,” she said.

“A National Eye Care plan has been sitting on the HSE’s desk since 2014, but it needs to be put in practice. Things are too slow.

“If you have a child who’s 12 or 13 you have no alternative now but to go private or get a referral from a GP.

“There are over 300 optometrist locations across the country. We need to clear waiting lists by getting children referred directly to optometrists by the HSE or by getting more straight forward cases done quickly, such as giving glasses to children.”

Nolan called for a system to be put in place similar to the NHS were all children are entitled to free eye tests.

The HSE has confirmed that changes are underway in order to provide more effective eye care for primary school children and improve access to eye screening.

“We look forward to working closely with the Optometrists in implementing the recommendations of the eye care review over the coming months,” said a spokesperson for the HSE.

“However, if parents or guardians have any concerns regarding a child’s eyesight, they should be brought to the attention of the Public Health Nurse at the school health examination or their GP.”

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