UK’s first vision and hearing survey aims to capture vital data on UK issues
A lack of accurate data is contributing to a £58billion bill for vision and hearing loss in the UK, according to a report published today that calls on the Government to support the first ever national survey of the UK population’s sensory needs.
It is estimated that around 2 million people in the UK are affected by partial sight loss, and this is expected to rise to 2.4 million by 2024. The number affected by hearing loss is estimated at 11 million, and this is also rising.
These issues cost the UK economy £58billion in total every year. This takes into account, medical costs, for example falls and fractures caused by visual impairment, an increased risk of dementia due to hearing loss, service costs, and reduced employment. Around 50 per cent of all sight loss is believed to be preventable.
Researchers and charities have now come together to campaign for the first ever UK National Eye-health and Hearing Study (UKNEHS). The data generated by a detailed survey will help cut the cost to the economy and better inform policy makers and service providers, with a focus on prevention.
Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, Chair of the Executive Board of the UKNEHS said “The UK has not invested effectively in collecting population data for vision and hearing loss. The UKNEHS is of vital importance to current and future generations if we are serious about providing quality, evidence-based services in these areas.”
The case for investment, published today by Vision UK, which works with organisations in the eye health and sight loss sector, outlines the details of the study. It would see 25,000 participants undergo an eye and hearing examination and complete a standardised general questionnaire.
Lord Colin Low, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment, stated: “If the UK is serious about reducing the levels of preventable visual impairment and hearing loss, then we must have the data that the UKNEHS will provide.
“If we don’t fund this kind of research we are saying that we accept that people living in the UK will lose their vision and hearing due to preventable causes, and that it is OK for them to live with hearing and vision loss that is treatable.”
The study will determine the prevalence and causes of vision impairment, blindness and hearing loss in the UK population aged 50 and over.
The study will also measure the detection and treatment coverage rate of major eye diseases and associated conditions, such as diabetes, in order to understand the effectiveness of current services.
Professor Rupert Bourne of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), Chief Investigator of the UKNEHS, said: “Growing demand from an ageing population and increasing incidence of long-term conditions will exacerbate existing issues in the system. However, policy makers are completely in the dark about the scale of the problem because no comprehensive survey has ever been done in this country.
“Other countries across the world regularly survey their populations, allowing them to make informed decisions about care and treatment, identify trends and take action.
“We know the costs – to the NHS and the UK economy – of these issues runs into the tens of billions of pounds every year, so it is imperative that we understand more about our eye and hearing health, so that we can better address people’s needs and reduce costs.”
The UKNEHS brings together a number of partners including ARU, The Thomas Pocklington Trust, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the College of Optometrists.
The report has been submitted to the UK Government. The UKNEHS needs the public to ask their MPs to support the project – e-mail contact@UKNEHS.org.uk to find out how.
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Image on top: #StrongerTogether SeeAbility provided Kiyana with specialist glasses and frames that fit her facial features as part of the charity’s sight testing research programme/ Photo by Anca Popescu