Up to a third of children aren’t getting their eyes screened; which could put their future vision at risk. But whose responsibility is it to ensure this figure drops – cash-strapped primary care trusts or parents?
When we found that at least 10% – and possibly up to a third – of kids aren’t getting their eyes screened as they start school, we were surprised by the Department of Health’s (DH) reluctance to force primary care trusts (PCTs) to provide it.
This, despite the DH stating that it was ‘expected’, ‘encouraged’ and ‘part of a national programme’.
Eye problems should be spotted early
We know that vision problems, such as lazy eyes, can often be corrected before a child is seven, but can be a lifelong blight on eyesight if they’re not spotted. That’s why we sent freedom of information requests to all 152 PCTs to find out if they offered it in the last school year.
You could take the view that any child can get free eye testing at the local optician, so isn’t it up to the parents to take them along? Maybe, but research shows that in reality it’s the most disadvantaged children who lose out.
Even where vision testing is offered, our information revealed that between 35 and 99% took it up, suggesting that some PCTs may not be good at organising the tests or getting the parental buy-in needed.
Good vision is essential to wellbeing
And surely it’s not worth ploughing funds into education if children can’t take advantage of it? From not being able to see the board to read for any length of time, to even being branded as having learning problems, many children are being held back by unknown eyesight problems.
To carry this to its logical conclusion, isn’t it in everyone’s best interests to make sure children reach their full potential and go on to be productive members of society?
So who’s at fault here? Surely we can’t risk the vision of the most disadvantaged kids by leaving it to parents to ensure eye testing? But is it really up to the DH to take a tougher stance and remind cash-strapped PCTs of their responsibilities to provide it?