Summary of report content
Healthwatch Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Dorset, Portsmouth and Southampton undertook research which was commissioned by NHS England Wessex (South) to understand the experiences of adults with learning disabilities and/or autism with sight tests and eye care, especially if people had never been to one and/or have complex needs.
People with learning disabilities and/or autism are more likely to have a sight problem than other people ‒ adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely and there is increasing evidence indicating this for autistic adults.
120 adults with learning disabilities and/or autism and 30 carers across Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight participated in our survey. Approximately 51% of people who participated said they wore glasses. While most had been for a sight test previously, many had not been to one in the recommended two-year period. People described good practice as positive, easy experiences. They made suggestions on possible improvements to help facilitate positive experiences as well. Key factors that influenced a person’s experience included:
- Having communication and support throughout the process, including the use of Easy Read resources
- Seeing the same optometrist and staff at each appointment
- Having information about sight tests and good eye care, including domiciliary tests
No one is too disabled to have a sight test and with the right support, more people can get the eye care they need. The report recommends a number of short- and long-term solutions to help improve access and uptake of sight tests for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, including:
- Increase general awareness of sight tests and good eye care
- Ensure optometrists and optical staff receive relevant awareness training and use reasonable adjustment flags to help meet people’s specific needs
- Ensure Annual Health Checks are effective in addressing eye health
- Develop a learning disability and autism standard for optometrists and optical staff that is quality checked by local learning disability user-led groups
- Use the findings of this report to support the call for more dedicated eye care schemes for this group — ideally nationally but in the absence of this, create local eye care schemes in Wessex by adapting the Local Optical Committee Support Unit’s (LOCSU) community pathway for people with learning disabilities
To gain further perspectives into this important aspect of healthcare, we also recommend additional research into experiences of sight tests with the following groups: children with learning disabilities and/or autism, people with more severe and profound and multiple learning disabilities (PLMD) and/or severe autism, their carers and support workers, and eye care professionals.