Dr. Abhishek Mandal, Ph.D.
Senior Business Adviser, Vision Science Academy, London, U.K.
Vision Science Academy Exclusive
A Special Report
The UK offers eye care services under the banner of the National Health Service (NHS). Sightlessness imposes a substantial burden over the global health resources. It is necessary to estimate the cost of vision loss and blindness prior to comprehending their socioeconomic impact and to determine the cost-effectiveness of their prevention and treatment.
Over two million people in the United Kingdom have vision loss, out of which more than half is preventable (Pezzullo et al., 2018). Moreover, the annual cost of vision impairment is predicted to reach £29.9 billion by 2030 and £33.5 billion by 2050. Up to 84% of the economic expenses of sight loss reside outside the health and social care system, and therefore, reflect ‘informal care’ by family and friends, workplace restrictions, and impact on quality of life. Owing to disorders affecting their vision, up to one-third of working age people suffer from severe visual impairment, and are therefore, unemployed. These obstacles to productivity are costing the British economy up to £7.4 billion (Facts about Sight Loss | Fight for Sight, n.d.).
Currently, eye diseases cost the NHS and social care £3.9 billion per annum. Furthermore, extreme delays in treatment access during the pandemic have added to these expenditures. It is expected that the UK economy could save up to £3.1 billion by 2030 and £9.5 billion by 2050 if the prevalence of eye disorders could be reduced by just 1% annually (Huge Personal and Economic Cost of Sight Loss Laid Bare by Fight for Sight, n.d.).
The National Health Service (NHS) experienced a substantial gap in the provision of eye care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people failed to show up for their scheduled eyesight screenings, which led to undesirable consequences. Delays in eye examinations have increased to one year or even longer in some cases leading to blindness in approximately 3,000 cases. Due to restricted services, the majority of patients failed to receive a timely referral, and those who were referred were unwilling to attend the sessions, leaving them susceptible to vision loss (The State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021, 2021).
It is well-documented throughout the United Kingdom and Europe that the need for ophthalmology services is continually rising due to an ageing population, better accuracy in disease detection and diagnosis, and improved treatment modalities. Nonetheless, the hospital resources, estates, and equipment are incapable of meeting the rising demand of eye care. These facts threaten the financial sustainability of the NHS eye care (NHS England » Funding and Efficiency, n.d.). Financial burden is attributed to two main triggers: An inappropriate care of patients which attributes to poor outcomes since it potentially wastes economic resources. In addition, the misuse or overuse for a range of conditions which leads to unwarranted tests and treatments.
In the light of the above discussion, it is being emphasised that to find a solution, it is not necessary to make structural changes; rather a similar degree of intervention can be achieved in more convenient ways. For instance, utilising technology to enhance productivity; empowering population to manage their own eye health; integrating additional health and care services and much more. Therefore, it is all about changing the physiology and not the anatomy of the NHS (Better Value in the NHS | The King’s Fund, n.d.).
Better value in the NHS | The King’s Fund. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/better-value-nhs/summary
Facts about sight loss | Fight for Sight. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2022, from
Huge personal and economic cost of sight loss laid bare by Fight for Sight. (n.d.).
Retrieved October 21, 2022, from
NHS England » Funding and efficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2022, from
Pezzullo, L., Streatfeild, J., Simkiss, P., & Shickle, D. (2018). The economic impact of
sight loss and blindness in the UK adult
population. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/S12913-018-2836-0
The State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021. (2021). Specsavers.