Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Eye health and sight loss services have historically had a lower profile amongst NHS priorities compared to many other specialities. Arguably, there is a view that the importance of eye health has been underrepresented in many Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) plans.  

The West Midlands Local Eye Health Network (WM LEHN) are working to develop and promote an understanding of the importance of eye health and raise awareness of the range and volume of activity relating to eye health that takes place across the West Midlands every year.The Strategy Unit was commissioned by Claire Roberts (WM LEHN Chair) to support their work and prepared the report on key opportunities for eye health and well being.

The project included 4 stages:

1. A detailed description of the nature and scale of current and historic acute eye health related activity across the region. - The data suggests demand may increase over next few years as a result of expected changes in population size and structure as well as other non-demographic factors.

2. A rapid review of the literature - exploring the wider implications of poor eye health, the interactions between eye health and other diseases or demands on healthcare.  

3. A workshop informed by the above. - The Strategy Unit facilitated the workshop with clinical, managerial and third sector leaders for eye health and sight loss across the West Midlands to identify, agree and prioritise some of the key opportunities for eye health across the region. 

4. The final stage involved sharing the collective learning and facilitating a discussion with the STP Commissioners, about how STPs might respond and what they would want to develop.

“It’s been a fantastic immersive journey working with over 40 colleagues from across the West Midlands, all who care passionately about eye health and the sight loss journey.  We were a mix of providers and commissioners, clinicians and the third sector.” 

Claire Roberts, West Midlands LEHN Chair

The project confirmed that there is a need to plan at an STP and Regional level due to the expected growth in diabetes, an aging population and the subsequent impact this will have on the populations’ eye health and sight loss. In addition, eye health and sight loss should be considered within the management of long term conditions. Accessing, collecting and joining the data will play a critical role in the service improvement as it can provide an insight into complex services and needs of patients. 

This work was also presented at the England Vision Strategy conference 2019 and received good feedback. It is especially great to see that some local communities have already started implementing findings of the research into their policy.

”Inspired by Claire & Karen's work, we have been using their story and their data to start meaningful conversations with our local health and adult social care commissioners, our local optical committee, local eye health network and other key stakeholders in West Sussex to bring about a positive change. And what's more, it feels like we're really starting to get somewhere!”

Nik Demetriades, Chief Executive Officer, 4Sight Vision Support