Specsavers calls for homeless to be offered free eye tests on the NHS to prevent blindness | The Sun

SPECSAVERS bosses have called for homeless to be offered free eye tests on the NHS.

The optical retail giant is asking the government to provide equal access for those who need it most.

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.

Co-founder Dame Mary Perkins 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.”



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For this, in partnership with Crisis, Vision Care for Homeless People and Big Issue, the company is helping those those experiencing homelessness access 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 added: “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.”

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According to Specsavers’ Access to Care 2023 report, one in three people experiencing homelessness have sight issues.

And there are barriers preventing them from accessing the care they need – including the lack of eligibility for NHS sight tests and glasses.

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

But 65 per cent have been put off going to an optician – because of the cost of glasses (32 per cent) and uncertainty around entitlement to free eye tests and glasses (28 per cent).

Discrimination is another notable barrier as homeless people reported uncomfortable judgements and interactions at opticians.

Others said they feel 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 5 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 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.

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And free replacement NHS glasses if broken, lost or stolen due to their 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.

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