Regular eye tests could save lives - Sky News


Regular eye tests for drivers could cut the number of casualties on UK roads by almost 3,000.

Road safety charity Brake, together with the DVLA and insurer RSA, has begun a campaign calling on motorists to visit the opticians at least every two years.

Failing to make sure your vision meets legal standards for the road is an offence.

However motorists are usually only tested for this during their driving exam, where they have to be able to read a number plate 20 metres away.

A survey of 1,000 drivers found 26% have not had an eye test in the last two years. And 3% - the equivalent to more than one million UK drivers - have never had one.

It also discovered there were 9% of drivers who need glasses or lenses, but do not always wear them behind the wheel.

Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend said: "Being able to see properly is fundamental to being a good driver. Your eyesight can deteriorate rapidly without you noticing, and at the wheel that can be lethal."

Cassie McCord, 16, from Colchester, was killed when a car mounted a pavement and hit her in February 2011.

The 87-year-old man driving it had failed a police eye test just days earlier, but officers had not been able to persuade him to hand over his licence.

Cassie's mother Jackie told Sky News: "They spent two hours coercing him, trying to get him to surrender his licence voluntarily, but he refused. He got in the car three days later and killed Cassie."

Thanks to a subsequent campaign by Mrs McCord, known as "Cassie's Law", police can now get permission from the DVLA to remove a licence from someone with poor eyesight within minutes - a process that used to take days.

She is now turning her focus to getting drivers to take some personal responsibility and get a test.

"Don't be so silly. These are people's lives. it could be your child, your granddaughter, your grandson, your son or daughter that could be killed by someone who cannot see to drive properly," she added.

"It doesn't take five, 10 minutes of your time to go into an optician's and have a proper eyesight test. And that way you will know as an individual that you are capable and safe to be on the road."


Portable eye test will revolutionise eye care - from


A portable eye testing kit based on a smartphone that could revolutionise eye care in the world's poorest nations is being tested in Africa by UK researchers.

The kit is a mobile app, together with clip-on hardware, that transforms a smartphone into a low-cost portable eye clinic that can be operated by a non-expert to gather detailed clinical information, diagnose cataracts, check prescriptions for vision lenses, and even check the retina for signs of disease.

Globally, there are 285 million people with impaired vision, 39 million of whom are blind, World Health Organization statistical estimates show.

Poorer countries carry the greatest burden of eye disease - 9 out of 10 blind people live in low-income countries, mostly in areas where access to ophthalmologists and eye clinics is virtually non-existent.

At present, to run a full range of eye tests, you would need state-of-the-art hospital equipment costing more than $150,000 (about £96,000 or €112,000), and 15 trained staff to operate it.

The barrier of such high costs could come down thanks to researchers from the UK who are testing the Portable Eye Examination Kit or Peek, on 5,000 people in Kenya.

Peek was developed by experts in eye health, Dr Andrew Bastawrous at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Dr Mario Giardini at the University of St Andrews, and Dr Iain Livingstone, at the NHS's Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research, together with Stewart Jordan, an independent app designer.

Money for the development came from the British Council for the Prevention of Blindness (BCPB), the Medical Research Council (MRC), Fight for Sight and the International Glaucoma Association (iga).

Dr Andrew Bastawrous, who is testing Peek against state-of-the-art hospital equipment, recently told BBC News that the patients who need it most are not able to reach the hospital because they live in remote locations and cannot afford transport anyway.

He says the hope is that Peek will provide eye care for the poorest of the poor. For example, cataracts are the most common cause of blindness, and a lot of hospitals are able to provide the surgery, but getting to the hospital for eye tests is the problem. Dr. Bastawrous said:

"What we can do using this is, the technicians can go to the patients, to their homes, examine them at their front doors and diagnose them there and then."

The tests are taking place in the Nakuru district of Kenya, which includes members of all 42 tribes residing in Kenya.

Earlier this year, Dr. Bastawrous co-authored a study that found age-related macular degeneration was the cause of blindness in 10% of people over the age of 50 in Nakuru.


Prime Minister backs new vision strategy


Prime Minister, David Cameron has backed the launch of the UK Vision Strategy 2013 - 2018, a framework for change to improve eye health in the UK and support for people with sight loss. The Strategy was launched at the Vision UK 2013 conference in Westminster, London.

Following a consultation in 2012, the Strategy sets out three priority outcomes for the next five years: 

  • Everyone in the UK looks after their eyes and their sight
  • Everyone with an eye condition receives timely treatment and, if permanent sight loss occurs, early and appropriate services and support are available and accessible to all
  • A society in which people with sight loss can fully participate

Mr Cameron said: "Any loss or impairment of vision can reduce a person’s quality of life substantially and demands for eye care services will increase as people live longer.

"This presents a challenge for the health and social care system which can only be overcome by improving the coordination, integration and effectiveness of eye health and care services across the UK."

The Strategy is supported by organisations across the eye health and sight loss sector who work together to deliver the Strategy. This partnership working has led to many successes since the Strategy launched in 2008.

Mr Cameron continues: "This collaborative approach has to be the way to improve services and support for people with vision problems. I am therefore pleased to welcome the aims of the UK Vision Strategy."

Anita Lightstone, Programme Director for UK Vision Strategy said: "We are delighted to have the support of the Prime Minister. By health and social care professionals working together in an integrated way we can ensure sight loss is avoided where possible and blind and partially sighted people get the support they need to play a full part in society."

For more information about the UK Vision Strategy go