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Low Vision

Volume 512: debated on Tuesday 29 June 2010

5. What his most recent assessment is of the adequacy of the level of support provided for people with low vision. (4463)

It is for primary care trusts and local authority social services departments to make decisions on commissioning, having assessed the evidence and needs in their areas, and taking account of standards and best practice.

Is the Minister aware of the excellent scheme in Wales that allows people with low vision to refer themselves to a high street optician or consulting ophthalmologist, and thus to have almost immediate access to the aids and support that they need? More than 87% of people are seen within two weeks under that scheme, whereas some areas in England have an 18-month waiting list, so will he examine the scheme to see whether it can be introduced in England?

I am grateful for that question. Obviously, the devolved Administrations are responsible for health care in their own areas, so we have an opportunity to learn lessons from each other. This Government will examine the evaluation of the scheme that the Welsh Administration are undertaking to see whether it provides any lessons for our system.

Will the Minister say whether the money provided by the primary care trust is ring-fenced? Will he ensure that the time-sensitive nature of such conditions, especially wet and dry macular degeneration, will be taken into account across all the English PCTs?

We need to achieve that not by ring-fencing budgets but by making sure that clinicians can deliver clinically evidence-based practice so that those with age-related macular degeneration receive the treatments that they need. Ring-fencing is not the way to go; we need to ensure that local commissioners have access to the right evidence, are empowered by patients and listen to clinicians, in order to deliver the right services.