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Make a Difference – Practices Wanted To Deliver Community Learning Disabilities Pathway

Learning disability eye test

8 June 2023

During this year’s Learning Disability Week, 19 to 25 June, and in close conjunction with the charity SeeAbility, Primary Eyecare is re-shaping and re-launching a new Single Point of Access referral pathway for people with learning disabilities. All practices located in the five areas listed below are eligible to deliver the service and will be able to claim an enhanced fee in recognition of the extra patient interaction time and adaptations involved. The only criteria for participation is that you must have an accredited learning disabilities practitioner working on your team.

Recognising the Need for Specialised Eye Care

We are acutely aware that there is a substantial need for adapted eye care services designed especially for the requirements of these patients. According to data released by the Office for National Statistics (OFNS), 1.3M people in England have a learning disability. Research shows that adults with a learning disability are 10 times as likely to have significant vision problems, rising to 28 times as likely in children.

We also know that many people with learning disabilities go through their lives unnecessarily disadvantaged because they, or their carers, may not know how to get appropriate eye tests or treatment. The result is that either people end up attending hospital eye departments unnecessarily or, even worse, that they receive no eye care at all.

Speaking about the pressing need for the eye care sector to bridge this gap between supply and demand, Richard Everitt, Chair of Primary Eyecare’s Easy Eye Care Working Group, and the organisation’s Service Development Director said:

‘Everybody working in healthcare recognises the importance of addressing health inequalities, but we haven’t done enough yet to meet the additional needs of people with learning disabilities.

The Easy Eye Care pathway presents an opportunity for the eye care sector to address that need by providing an essential service that supports patients who are frequently overlooked in their efforts to lead independent and fulfilling lives.’

Introducing Easy Eye Care

Based on the LOCSU model and called Easy Eye Care, the service addresses these challenging issues by allowing people with learning disabilities to benefit from certain adaptions to the sight test.

Benefits to Your Patients

Service modifications include pre-appointment visits, completion of a functional vision assessment if needed, longer appointment time with an accredited practitioner in learning disabilities and the completion of feedback forms personally undertaken by the optometrist. The results of examinations are always reported back to the patient in an accessible format.

Benefits for Your Practice

Offering specialised services for patients with Learning Disabilities is a solid way of growing your practice both financially and reputationally. It helps to expand and retain your patient base, provide much valued community support and to establish you as a trusted and compassionate local clinical expert.

Patient Eligibility

The service is available to anyone registered with a GP in one of the areas listed below who is recognised as having a mild, moderate to severe learning disability and is registered on a local learning disabilities register.

Support Materials

SeeAbility has produced a range of easy read patient information literature to support the Easy Eye Care pathway which can be downloaded from the Resources page of SeeAbility’s website.

Areas where these services are currently being commissioned

The pathway will initially be running in the following areas with commissioned services:

  • Cheshire & Merseyside
  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancashire & South Cumbria
  • County Durham
  • Sutton

We continue to work with stakeholders to make the case for the Easy Eye Care Programme to be implemented across all parts of the country.

Are You an Optometrist Based in One of These Areas?

Book onto our online Easy Eye Care Focus event to find out more: Thursday 22 June at 7pm to 8pm. CPD accredited.

Our Focus learning event is designed to provide practices based in the five areas listed above with some background and context around the Easy Eye Care pathway. Content will include:

  • An overview of sight problems amongst people with learning disabilities and the range of adjustments required to support their additional needs
  • An exploration of the Primary Eyecare Easy Eye Care pathway in detail, highlighting how it is designed to meet these additional needs
  • A personal perspective from one of SeeAbility’s ‘lived experience’ Eye Care Champions

If you are a practitioner based in one of the five areas listed above, please register to attend our Focus event here.

If you are unable to attend the live session, you can still register to receive a recording of the event.

Please share this information with any locally based optometrist colleagues whom you think would be interested in finding out more about this service.