Specsavers is calling on the government to provide NHS eye tests for the homeless

Specsavers is calling on the Government to provide NHS-funded eye tests for the homeless, ahead of its own plans to set up out-of-hours clinics in stores in 2024. People affected by homelessness have higher rates of glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration – however, many are not eligible for NHS-funded sight tests and glasses.

As a result, the company, in partnership with Crisis, Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP), and Big Issue, is helping those in need of access to eye care.

MPs and the founder of Big Issue joined the opticians and audiologist specialist in the House of Commons, to campaign for better access to care.

MP Marsha de Cordova said: “Everyone should have equal access to eye care, especially those more at risk of permanent sight loss, such as homeless people, who are at a greater risk due to barriers in accessing NHS-funded eye tests.

“It is fantastic to see the collaboration between businesses and charities like Specsavers, Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP), Crisis, Big Issue, and others, to achieve equality and equity in eye health care for people experiencing homelessness.”

Specsavers’ Access to Care 2023 report highlights that one in three people experiencing homelessness have sight issues, and there are a multitude of barriers preventing them from accessing the care they need – including the lack of eligibility for NHS-funded sight tests and glasses.

More than a third (38 percent) haven’t had an eye test in the last five years, and 14 percent have never had one at all.

And it emerged that 65 percent have been put off going to an optician – because of the cost of glasses (32 percent), and uncertainty around entitlement to free eye tests and glasses (28 percent).

Discrimination, both actual and perceived, is another notable barrier, as homeless people reported uncomfortable judgements and interactions at opticians – and some felt too embarrassed to enter them, due to fear of being asked to pay.

As part of improving access to care, the eye and hearing brand held a Parliamentary Reception on December 5th at the House of Commons.

Hosted by MP for Battersea, Marsha De Cordova, the reception called for changes to Government policy, to remove unnecessary barriers that make it difficult for people experiencing homelessness to access the eye care they need.

The three key policy changes include ensuring people experiencing homelessness are eligible for are an NHS-funded sight test and glasses, as well as an NHS domiciliary service when attending a day centre or when staying in a shelter or hostel – and without the 48 hour pre-visit notification requirement, which is a barrier in England.

And free replacement NHS glasses were also a requirement, if a pair of specs end up broken, lost, or stolen due to homelessness.

Specsavers is also increasing access to care by running eye care clinics at Crisis outreach centres, setting up new clinics with VCHP, piloting out-of-hours clinics in stores, and providing Big Issue vendors with eye and ear care vouchers.

Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of the opticians and audiologists brand, and patron for VCHP, said: “One in three people experiencing homelessness have sight issues, yet many face barriers to accessing the eye care they need.

“These include lack of eligibility for NHS-funded sight tests and glasses, difficulty in accessing domiciliary services, and lack of provision for replacement glasses if lost, broken, or stolen.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *