A,B,C,D – and E: Our top takeaways from World Eye Health Day at Westminster

24 October 22

written by:

Eva Astreinidou

(more articles)

Marsha de Cordova MP stands at the podium to speak at The Eyes Have It event

It has certainly been an eventful few weeks at Westminster, no less so because of the annual World Eye Health event with ‘The Eyes Have It’ coalition.

Hosted by Marsha de Cordova MP, the event had a fantastic turnout, with 44 parliamentarians and several clinical experts attending to find out what actions need to be taken to tackle the capacity crisis in eye care.

Dawn Butler MP and Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP contribute their ideas to the pledge wall
Dawn Butler MP and Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP contribute their ideas to the pledge wall

The Fight for Sight team, alongside partners RNIB, Macular Society, the Association of Optometrists (AOP), the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO) and Roche, spoke to influential policy-makers about the impact of a late diagnosis and the importance of research in developing new treatments to prevent sight loss.

Here were some of our key takeaways from the event:

  1. We need to face the huge backlog – Just a few months ago, there were close to 644,000 patients on ophthalmology waiting lists in England[1] – almost ten percent of the entire NHS backlog and equivalent to one per cent of the population of England[2]. More than 28,000 of those patients had been waiting for longer than a year.
  2. “50% of all sight loss is avoidable and that should shock and frustrate us into action” - These powerful words from Marsha de Cordova MP resonated with every person in the room. With a coordinated national eye care strategy and the reduction of waiting lists, the chances for early detection, and prevention of sight loss, multiply.
  3. The national ABCD patient plan could soon expand – Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care Will Quince spoke at the event to show his support and suggest the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s ABCD plan could soon be getting an E (for eye care) added to it. Speaking to the audience he said: “Too many people are waiting far too long.” He spoke about the demand for care rising due to our ageing population and said he will be investigating what services can move out of hospital and into communities, through initiatives like Optometry First.
  4. We are better together – Marsha de Cordova took a moment to congratulate new members joining The Eyes Have It partnership. With the expansion of the partnership, and with evident cross-party support in the room, we know this is only the beginning. This is not a political issue and we need all hands on deck to tackle this crisis.
  5. The power of research – Quicker diagnosis is crucial to prevention – as is research to develop breakthrough treatments. We were grateful that the role of research was recognised throughout the event and are determined to continue building on these relationships to broaden awareness and commitment towards much-needed investment.
Fight for Sight colleagues Madina Kara and Ranjeet Khare stand with Will Quince MP and smile at the camera
Fight for Sight colleagues Madina Kara and Ranjeet Khare with Will Quince MP

[1] NHS England, Consultant-led referral to treatment times Incomplete Commissioner July 2022 (Last accessed September 2022). https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/09/Incomplete-Commissioner-Jul22-XLS-7020K-11455.xls

[2] Population of England is estimated as 57,029,195 (ONS). 640,000/57,000,000 = 1.1% ONS, 2020-based Interim National Population Projections (January 2022). Last accessed September 2022). https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationprojections/datasets/z3zippedpopulationprojectionsdatafilesengland/2020basedinterim/enpppopendata2020.xls