Survey Results: low vision assessment services in England

The Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) has published the findings of their recent Impact survey on the commissioning and provision of low vision assessment services in England.

The impact of Covid-19 has resulted in many low vision assessment clinics being cancelled, and assessments carried out via remote consultations. Initial returns have shown a significant fall in certifications of visual impairment during lockdown periods. The CHEC, which represents the major clinical professions and sight loss charity organisations in the eye-care sector, conducted a survey on the commissioning and provision of low vision assessment services in England to gain an understanding of the impact of the pandemic on low vision assessment services between April 2020 and March 2021.

Impact survey on the commissioning and provision of low vision assessment services in England

Background
The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in many low vision assessment clinics being cancelled, and assessments carried out via remote consultations. Initial returns have shown a significant fall in certifications of visual impairment during lockdown periods.

Service provision has been challenging, with deployed clinical staff, patients and some practitioners shielding, and lower clinic numbers to maintain distancing.

Our online survey was conducted for five weeks from 5th April 2021 to gain an understanding of the impact on low vision assessment services in England between April 2020 – March 2021.

Summary of Survey Findings

Prior to the pandemic

  • No consistency in use of service specifications within contracts.
  • Majority of services (59%) have low vision assessment protocols in place.
  • Clarity needed for thresholds for low vision assessment referral pathways.
  • Access to domiciliary low vision assessment is limited or not available.
  • 45 of 49 (92%) trusts that responded reported access to an Eye Clinic Liaison officer (ECLO).
  • 21 of 23 (91%) charities that responded reported access to an ECLO.
  • 11 of 45 (24%) of optical practices that responded reported access to an ECLO.

Since the pandemic:

  • No consistent response to lockdowns/ delays caused by the COVID-19.
  • Low vision assessment services provided by Trusts affected the most compared to those provided by charities or optical practices.
  • 20% of patients were not contactable to arrange a remote consultation.
  • 22 of 49 (45%) of hospital trusts expected their backlog to be cleared within 4 months.
  • 12 of 23 (52%) of charities expected their backlog to be cleared within 4 months.
  • No backlog reported by primary care optical practices providing low vision assessments.

Read full findings here