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Eye Health

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 19 July 2022

We are supporting the prevention of sight loss throughout the NHS sight testing service and diabetic retinopathy screening programmes. Work to reduce smoking and obesity tackles risk factors for sight loss. We are also supporting ophthalmic services to recover from the pandemic and to transform services so that we can meet future demand, including exploring the provision of delivering more services out of hospital, closer to patients where they need them.

Fifty per cent. of all sight loss is avoidable, but currently there is no overarching strategy in England to govern eye care that would help to reduce sight loss. A strategy for England would improve the quality of life for people who are blind or partially sighted, address health inequalities, and link up patient pathways for overall improved health outcomes. Does the Minister therefore agree that England needs its own national eye care strategy, which would include targets for the reduction of avoidable sight loss, and will he agree to meet me to discuss this further?

Given the size of England and the diversity of the health needs of different communities, we believe that commissioning should be locally led, so there are no current plans for a national eye health strategy. However, I am delighted that NHS England has appointed the first-ever national clinical director for eye care, Louisa Wickham, who will want to set priorities in this area. It is also worth mentioning that we continue to be committed to the national eye care recovery and transformation programme, which is looking to transform secondary care ophthalmology services in order to use existing funding to improve service quality and patient outcomes. That remains a top priority for us.