The National Vision Strategy would focus on the following areas of concern:
- Central Register of Eye Conditions: Computerised databases and paper records of people affected by visual impairments exist in many centres around Ireland. A coordinated approach to the storage of this information through a central register is essential. This would act as a resource to the relevant stakeholders involved in the planning of treatment pathways and service provision into the future.
- Urgent Planning for Rehabilitation and Support Services to address an Aging Population and increasing levels of Childhood Blindness: Many of the conditions causing visual impairment are age related and the vast majority of people with sight loss are aged 65 and over. An ageing population suggests the number of people with sight loss is likely to increase dramatically over the next 25 years. There is also concern at the growing numbers of children with multiple disabilities (of which blindness is only one symptom) now requiring services.
- Pathways to Health Care Services: It is vital that vision tests are provided in schools, access to regular affordable eye tests is retained, surgical waiting times are reduced and a pathway to treatment for eye disease developed to prevent unnecessary sight loss. This is particularly important for the most common causes of vision impairment such as Cataracts, Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Glaucoma.
- Research: Less than 2% of our total research spend is in vision research. While a world class eye research infrastructure exists primarily through the work of patient led charities, Ireland needs a greater focus on the search for cures and treatments for eye diseases and not just depend on a charity fundraising.
- Public Education: More attention needs to be paid to vision health to ensure a better understanding of the causes and treatments available for eye diseases. Studies have shown that vision loss is one of the disabilities that people fear most, yet they know very little about prevention.