Children waiting up to ‘four years’ for eye exams
Eye screening system failing children, Irish Optometrists claim
The school eye screening system is failing children as they are being treated too late and not being tested sufficiently for reading vision difficulties, Irish Optometrists have claimed.
Launching the Association of Optometrists Ireland’s (AOI) Bright Eyes awareness week Optometric Advisor Lynda McGivney-Nolan said these problems cause an unacceptable risk of learning difficulties for children which can compromise their future careers.
“We know that many vision problems, if caught and managed before the age of seven, are reversible. However, this week we have confirmed that the waiting time for follow up exams from the State’s school eye screening system is 47 months (almost 4 years) in Kildare. The delay was recently reported to be three years in Dublin and is a minimum of two years.
“Given that the State screening takes place when children are five or six, this means that many children, identified as having a vision concern, are not getting specialist exams until long after age seven, if at all.”
The AOI said that the ongoing delay is caused by a shortage of appointments with medical eye doctors, but if the HSE worked with community based Optometrists to carry out routine follow ups from the school eye screening programme, waiting times would be cut dramatically.
“The Competition Authority as far back as 2006 recommended that Optometrists should be seeing children from the school screening; this has yet to be implemented.”
Furthermore, the current school screening methodology does not test sufficiently for close vision problems which effect reading.
“Up to third class children learn to read. After third class they read to learn. Any undiagnosed problems with reading vision, by this stage, will seriously impact on the child’s ability to learn properly. The current school eye screening system is failing Irish children. It is not best practice. We need to change it and ensure best practice in diagnosis and treatment,” she said.
From the 25th to the 30th of November many independent optometrists across Ireland will be offering the AOI’s ‘6 Point Vision Check’ free of charge, or at a nominal cost. The check is available at short notice and has been specially developed using proven standards to identify reading vision problems which are not normally picked up at the school screenings.
The theme of the Bright Eyes campaign is ‘Bright Future’ to highlight the importance of correct and timely diagnosis and treatment of eye problems to protect children’s education and their future working lives.
During Bright Eyes week optometrists will also be visiting schools to talk to parents, teachers and pupils about the importance of healthy eye sight and answer any questions.
More information on Bright Eyes and participating Optometrists at www.brighteyes.ie or from the AOI at (01) 435 8850.