National recognition for children’s vision screening service

A new children’s vision screening service for Lancashire has received support from leading eye health experts as a ‘model service’ that should be implemented across the country.

The Vision Screening Service, commissioned by Lancashire County Council and run by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is the first of its kind to be introduced in the country.

And now the service has been ‘highly commended’ by the British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS) for the way it is managed by orthoptists and all screening tests are carried out by orthoptic staff.

The Vision Screening Service provides screening to four and five-year-old children across all primary schools in the county, and to children who are home educated or missing from education at community venues.

The service detects reduced vision that can be caused by such conditions such as lazy eye (amblyopia), squint (strabismus), long or short sightedness and astigmatism.

Identifying conditions such as these in reception-aged children is vital as any eye conditions can be treated more affectively when detected at an early age.

County Councillor Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We’re pleased that our new service has already received national recognition.

“The unique thing about our service is that it’s led by orthoptists and delivered by trained vision screeners in line with BIOS guidelines. Their expertise is crucial as they have the qualifications and experience to identify a number of eye conditions.

“The way our service is set up means the same high standards are provided to all four and five year old children across Lancashire.

“Screening the vision of all reception age pupils is a key part of our plans to ensure children have a healthy start in life.

“The sooner eye conditions are detected, the more effectively they can be treated.

“Children with better health and wellbeing are likely to achieve better academically so early vision screening is essential.”

Lancashire’s Vision Screening Service covers all local authority areas in the county with qualified orthoptic staff working for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Helen Reynolds, Head of Orthoptics at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust: said: “For the first time, all four and five-year-olds in Lancashire now have their vision tested by staff trained by qualified orthoptists. This means a high quality, consistent screening service every time which can only be good for our children’s eyesight.”

Cath Gray, Orthoptic Services Manager at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The collaboration of two NHS Trusts will enable a standardised, quality service delivery to all the children of Lancashire. Our vision screening standards fit in with Public Health England guidelines and we’re pleased to be delivering the service in partnership with East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.”

Veronica Greenwood, Chair of the British and Irish Orthoptic Society, added: “The County-wide commissioning of orthoptic-led vision screening in Lancashire will provide other areas with the template and benchmark to move to this model of excellence and effective screening”.

“The British and Irish Orthoptic Society supports the national recommendation for all children to have an orthoptic led vision screening at 4-5 years. The introduction of the vision screening service across Lancashire will ensure that children from all socio-economic backgrounds receive vision screening and timely referral for the treatment they require and will provide other areas with the model of excellence for effective screening.”

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