EXPERTS warn the impact of the pandemic is a ‘ticking timebomb’ on Plymouth people’s eye health, as new data is released.
Dr Josie Forte, store director at Specsavers Plymouth, is highlighting the stark findings from a national report* which shows there were 85,780 missed appointments at Specsavers stores in Devon and Cornwall.
The State of the UK’s Eye Health Report 2021, commissioned by Specsavers in collaboration with leading eye health experts and charities, counts not only the additional financial burden now facing society as a result of the pandemic, but also the very real cost to people’s sight.
The findings are being reflected locally with up to date figures showing 8,590 people are living with sight loss in Plymouth. It also shows 2,740 have glaucoma, 2,520 have late-stage age-related macular degeneration and 2,820 have cataract.
Josie says: ‘As comprehensive as this report is, we, along with our colleagues and partners across the eye health sector, suspect these early findings are just the tip of the iceberg.
‘The pandemic meant that eye care services in the UK were withdrawn, reduced or restricted, and despite Specsavers being open for care throughout the pandemic, our stores alongside other high street opticians, saw a drop of almost 25% in eye tests across the sector.
‘This has led to a reduction in referrals and the treatment of serious, sometimes symptomless eye conditions that can lead to irreversible and permanent sight loss if not detected and managed in time. The eye health sector, and the NHS, has a ticking timebomb on its hands.’
Yet despite this, many people in and around Plymouth are still not making their eye health a priority.
Ahead of National Eye Health Week (September 20-26) Specsavers commissioned research, carried out by OnePoll, which reveals that 37% of people in the region have delayed having an eye test, knowing that they were due to have one or feeling like they should have one.
Josie adds: ‘Regular eye tests are so important. If people in Plymouth have missed their appointment during the pandemic, I urge them to book. We are still adhering to strict safety precautions in every one of our stores. It’s important that people keep having regular appointments – even if they don’t think anything is wrong – as many conditions are symptomless in the early stages.’
The report also finds that, UK-wide, almost 3,000 people (2,986) are estimated to have lost their sight due to delayed identification and treatment of eye disease during the pandemic and more than 300,000 (316,000) people have missed referrals for ophthalmology services. It predicts that there will be a £2.5billion estimated additional economic cost of sight loss and blindness due to the pandemic between 2021 and 2024.
For more information about the State of the UK’s Eye Health Report visit www.specsavers.co.uk/eye-health/state-of-the-uks-eye-health-2021.
*Specsavers commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to research the State of the UK’s Eye Health Report 2021. Full methodology and additional sources used can be accessed in the report from page 28 www.specsavers.co.uk/eye-health/state-of-the-uks-eye-health-2021