Improving Eye Care Across Wessex

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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.

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General details

Report title 
Improving Eye Care Across Wessex
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Dorset
Healthwatch Hampshire
Healthwatch Isle of Wight
Healthwatch Portsmouth
Healthwatch Southampton
Date of publication 
Monday, 26 October, 2020
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 12 December, 2019
Date evidence capture finished 
Friday, 28 February, 2020
Type of report 
Patient experience
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Building and facilities
Communication between staff and patients
Cost of services
Health inequalities
Public involvement
Staff training
Other information of note about this report 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
Other (please specify)
If this work has been done in partnership, who is the partner? 
Wessex Local Eye Health Network and SeeAbility
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
How was the information collected? 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
Optometry services

Details about conditions and diseases

Conditions or diseases 
Eye conditions
Types of disabilities 
Learning or understanding or concentrating
Types of long term conditions 
Learning disability
What type of pregnancy or maternity themes are included in the report 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.