Access to potentially vision-saving eye care is of growing importance in the United Kingdom. Here, ophthalmology demand is expected to increase by 40% between 2018 and 2038 due to an increasingly ageing population.
Unfortunately, the current state of UK eye care is not up for the task, with 63% of National Health Services (NHS) ophthalmology services estimating that clearing their backlogs will take at least a year. This has been exacerbated due to the series of strikes affecting the healthcare sector across the board, putting those with otherwise treatable eye conditions at risk of partial or total vision loss in the interim.
Thus, the NHS has established new guidelines to improve eye care accessibility in the country, the primary objective of which is to reduce these potentially risky wait times and address growing backlogs. For vision care providers, opticians, and eyewear brands seeking to bridge this gap and support NHS initiatives, here are a few ways to ensure that more Brits can get the eye services they need.
At-home try-on services
Some people who need glasses may not want to order them online because they cannot test the eyewear in person. For those worried about comfort or suitability to face shape, at-home try-on services give people a chance to physically try frames before making an investment. Glasses Direct is a vision care provider that allows customers to try on glasses at home so they can get a real feel for them in terms of fit, weight and size. With unlimited Home Trials per customer and up to seven days per trial, Brits with mobility or accessibility issues can take their time testing frames without feeling pressured. When done, testers can use the pre-paid postage label and send the frames back via post box for free, which is ideal for discerning but budget-conscious buyers.
Those with more specific needs and preferences for eyewear may wonder if they’ll have to compromise on those to save a few bucks by ordering online. At Maskell + Josephson, you can upgrade your glasses lenses to Transitions or Blue Zero, which is ideal for computer use, at no extra charge. Free upgrades to polarised lenses are also available for those buying sunglasses. It’s essential to inform patients of the above value-adding and convenience-improving features to encourage them to invest in quality eyewear. A costly upgrade or delivery fee may be the only reason they’re putting off a much-needed purchase.
Optimising optical exams
As of August 2023, over 640,000 people are waiting to receive specialist eye treatment, including 20,000 people who have been waiting at least a year. New NHS guidelines propose that patients access more accurate diagnostic testing before being referred to an ophthalmologist. This is important because as many as two in five suspected glaucoma cases and half of suspected diabetic maculopathy cases are false positives, primarily due to the poor quality of existing tests, further worsening backlogs.
Thus, vision care providers should strive to get access to more sophisticated imaging technology as soon as possible and prioritise those who have been waiting the longest. In addition, efforts should be made to target groups most vulnerable to eye issues, such as adults with learning disabilities, who are ten times more likely to have serious vision problems. Providing patients with adequate and updated information can help them seek the appropriate solutions as NHS endeavours toward full implementation of their new measures.
Myopia rates will only continue to rise among the youth, as will the incidence of eye issues among the UK population as it continues to age. The government and vision health stakeholders should work hand-in-hand to provide affordable, accessible eye care to help Brits see a clearer future ahead.