Scots with sight loss set to double

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Can Scotland cope with a dramatic jump in the number of people losing their sight over the next two decades, conference debates

22nd May 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A landmark conference taking place today (23 May) will debate how Scotland will cope with a major increase in the number of people who are blind or partially sighted.

There are currently around 170,000 people in Scotland with significant sight loss, and two million across the UK. Every day, around 10 people begin to lose their sight.

But an ageing population and high rates of sight-threatening health conditions such as diabetes could mean this could potentially double within two decades. The most common causes of sight loss are age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Campbell Chalmers, director of sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, said: "Although Scotland remains a world leader in some aspects of eye-care, demographic trends mean that the number of people with sight loss will, inevitably, increase. Already one in six hospital appointments in some hospitals are for eye problems.

"We need to start thinking now about a society in which significantly more of our population will have needs connected with their vision."

Today's conference will discuss future priorities and developments in eye-healthcare, consider strategies to prevent sight loss, and hear personal perspectives from blind and partially sighted delegates.

The event will gauge progress made by the Scottish Vision Strategy, launched in 2008 as part of a global initiative to push through some of the most ambitious eye-health targets ever set by developed countries.

Chalmers said: "The eye-care 'landscape' is changing dramatically. The Scottish Government's recent eyecare review, the impending integration of health and social care, a new sight loss registration system and an expanded role for community optometry are among the key developments we will discuss.

"The Scottish Government's eyecare review has aimed to identify examples of good practice within community services that could be replicated on a national basis.

"It wants optometry - high street opticians - to play an expanded role as a first port of call, helping to detect eye problems early on. But it also recognises there are still challenges in ensuring that eye-care services are accessed by our more vulnerable communities and individuals."

Speakers at the one-day event will include Lord Low of Dalston, a former chair of RNIB and the European Blind Union, and Jaqui Reid, programme director with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the Alliance), a membership organisation bringing together local and national third sector organisations as well as people who are disabled, living with long term conditions or providing unpaid care.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Ian Welsh, chief executive of the Alliance, said: "It is vital that Scotland takes a joined-up approach to supporting people who are blind or partially sighted. Health and social care integration offers a step forward towards services which work closely to support people to enjoy their right to live well."