Kings Cross's Royal College of Ophthalmologists just released its survey on London's eye health entitled, "Eye Health – preventing sight loss in London." The London Assembly is now using data from this study to encourage the mayor to implement public eye health policies.
Using statistics from the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB), this report found that London loses £6.4 billion per year on eye health expenses. That's roughly £750 per Londoner annually. Overall, the UK spends £28 billion on eye care each year.
With this data in mind, the London Assembly predicts that the number of people living with serious vision issues in the British capital will increase by 194,000 by 2030. Health experts believe an additional 74,000 Londoners will have a mild form of visual impairment by 2030.
This report clearly showed that people living with sight loss are at a greater risk of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. People who have a blinding condition tend to become more socially withdrawn and are more prone to suicidal ideation.
Sadly, people with visual impairments are also at a higher risk of injuring themselves. Specifically, the report shows that people with a visual handicap are 1.7 times more likely to fall than a person with healthy sight.
In addition to these troubling trends, the report found that Londoners with sight loss are more likely to fall into poverty than people with healthy eyes. London Assembly members suggested increasing eye health services might help the capital's most vulnerable have a better chance of achieving financial security.
To reverse these troubling trends, London Assembly members came together to develop a public health plan on December 5th. Assembly members agreed that a citywide strategy should be enforced by London Mayor Sadiq Khan's office to improve the quality of the city's eye health
Onkar Sahota, the chair of the London Assembly's Labor Party, called on Mayor Khan to work with eye specialists and formulate an effective public health policy. Dr. Sahota went on to say, "We are lacking strong leadership in this area and the Mayor of London is ideally placed to drive forward the changes that are needed to transform eye health care in London.
"During his speech to the assembly, Dr. Sahota said London's minorities need to be better served in terms of eye care. Dr. Sahota pointed out that people of Afro-Caribbean descent are eight times more likely to develop glaucoma than other groups. He also said that Asians have a higher risk of cataracts.
Perhaps the most alarming finding in this report was that more than 25 percent of UK adults said they hadn't been to an eye exam within the past two years. Amazingly, eight percent of respondents hadn't been to an eye exam in their entire lives.
One key strategy the London Assembly laid out was to encourage all Londoners to get a yearly exam. Assembly members want parents to send their children to get an eye test at least by the age five.
The London Assembly also urged the mayor to look into capacity issues at London's various eye clinics. One way the Assembly recommended addressing this issue was by creating eye clinic liaison officers for all London hospitals.