Strategy 2013-2018: improving the UK’s eye health

UK Vision Strategy 2013-2018: improving the UK's eye healthFollowing a sector wide consultation the UK Vision Strategy (UVS) have refreshed its efforts to transform the UK’s eye health, eye care, and sight loss services.

What is the UK Vision Strategy?

The UVS is a cross-sector initiative developed in 2008, after a consultation process with over 650 organisations and individuals, to set a framework for improvement to the UK’s eye health and outcomes for people suffering sight loss.

Why do we need the UK Vision Strategy?

In 2003 the World Health Assembly Resolution highlighted a need for new and improved plans to tackle visual impairment, now known as the Vision 2020 plans, because of clear signs that services were failing and there would be larger demand for them in the future.

By 2050 it has been estimated that 4 million British citizens will suffer some form of sight loss. The UVS aims to make improvements to eye healthcare so that the country is prepared to cope with a rise in demand for eye health services and provide adequate care in the future.

How are they renewing the strategy?

Half a decade after the UVS has decided to update its objectives by setting three outcomes to be achieved between 2013 and 2018.

The intended outcomes are:

  1. Everyone in the UK looks after their eyes and their sight.
  2. Everyone with an eye condition receives timely treatment and, if permanent sight loss occurs, early and appropriate services and support are available and accessible to all.
  3. A society in which people with sight loss can participate.

By setting these goals the UVS hopes to address the problems in the eye health sector in order to give better support to the almost 2 million people in the UK living with sight loss in the next five years.

Outcome 1: The importance of looking after our own eyes

The first outcome is to ensure that everyone is aware of sight loss and how sights loss can be avoided in order to make them take care of their own eyes.

A key part of challenging the rise in eyesight problems is preventing their onset. By closely taking care of our eyes we can make sure that there is no need to go through operations and medications which put extra strain on medical and support services.

Opticians can help achieve this goal by promoting the importance of regular eye health checks with promotional materials such as posters and leaflets as well as discounted eye exams and free screening events.

Another way of raising awareness of sight loss is by holding fun days and events for blindness charities like the RNIB and Action for Blind People. By doing this you will both be raising the issue of sight loss to the public and creating extra funding for the charities to also spread awareness.

Outcome 2: Timely treatments and patient support

The second outcome is about focusing on each individual with sight loss and directing them to appropriate services and support.

Learning to cope with sight loss can be difficult as people often take their vision for granted. Losing your eyesight can affect the way you go about daily tasks and puts strain on both the afflicted and their family members. It’s therefore extremely important that both patients and those around them are notified of the help and support they can receive.

By building links between your practice and local services that can help patients cope with sight loss, such as support groups and counselling, you can help move them onto good quality and effective services.

If you don’t have a local support group then you should try setting one up. Living with sight loss can be lonely and isolating, by bringing your patients together you can help teach them how to cope as a group while introducing them to others in similar positions.

Outcome 3: Creating an inclusive society

The third outcome is to create a society in which those with sight loss aren’t excluded, isolated, and discriminated against.

As visual impairment isn’t always obvious it’s very easy for sufferers to go unnoticed in society which leads to people putting barriers in their way unknowingly.

You can help those suffering with sight loss by helping highlight the problems blind people have in everyday life. This can be through a campaign to show the difficulties of being blind, events at schools that raise disability awareness and how they can help the blind, and hosting blind-friendly evening with activities like bingo in a local venue.

Another way to help society include the blind is to notify local shops and businesses of any obstacles that may mean that the visually impaired aren’t able to access their services.

More information

Visit the Vision Strategy UK website for more on their five year plan.

If you’re visually impaired and need support please read the RNIB’s article on coping with sight loss.

If you’re caring for a blind person and wish to access support services read our article on AMD and the burden on carers.

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