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SeeAbility charity slams NHS saying 151 children in Tower Hamlets with learning disabilities not getting eye tests

PUBLISHED: 06:55 02 May 2018

L-R: Mum Alyson Farrell with daughter Ellie and SeeAbility boss Lisa Hopkins. Picture: SEEABILITY

L-R: Mum Alyson Farrell with daughter Ellie and SeeAbility boss Lisa Hopkins. Picture: SEEABILITY

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Children with learning disabilities are missing out on eye tests and the NHS is dragging its heels dealing with it, a charity said.

SeeAbility optometrist Lisa Donaldson (middle) during an eye test. Picture: SEEABILITYSeeAbility optometrist Lisa Donaldson (middle) during an eye test. Picture: SEEABILITY

Children with learning disabilities are missing out on eye tests and the NHS is dragging its heels dealing with it, a charity said.

The study by learning disability and sight loss charity SeeAbility estimates 219 youngsters in Tower Hamlets don’t have a history of regular eye examinations.

SeeAbility boss Lisa Hopkins said: “Many children are living life in a total blur. This goes on to affect their entire lives.

“We implore NHS England to stop dragging its heels and introduce reforms. This is a major health inequality NHS England has a responsibility to address and fund appropriately.”

The study suggests thousands of children with learning disabilities in UK special schools miss out on eye tests despite being 28 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than other children.

Every youngster under 19 in full time education is entitled to a free NHS eye test.

However, children with learning disabilities often can’t cope with standard high street or hospital eye tests with parents often at a loss as to where to go for a test their children can manage, according to SeeAbility.

But children with severe learning disabilities or autism – which make communicating difficult – can still have an eye test if changes are made.

The charity said it is “a common misconception” reading a letter chart is necessary or a child needs to be able to speak to have their eyes tested.

It urged the NHS to act on its calls to spend more on tests adapted for learning disability youngsters.

A spokeswoman said NHS England is working with SeeAbility and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to improve test access including steps needed to provide “a more consistent” service.

She added while NHS England commissions sight tests under government regulations, significant changes need to be regulated by the DHSC.

The charity took the percentage of children in London using its services in the last four years whose parents responded to its survey – 43 per cent – and applied it to the number of youngsters who go to Tower Hamlets Council funded special schools – 498 according to SeeAbility.

It received a grant from DHSC in 2016 towards research into the effects of regular eye tests on children in special schools.

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