BIOS Response to BBC News article 22/08/2018
Orthoptists, represented by The British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS) are the eye care professionals recommended to lead on the delivery of vision screening.
Orthoptists have specific expertise in the assessment of visual deficits in young children.
All 4-5 year old children should have Orthoptic led vision screening in reception year at school. Research has demonstrated that screening at this age and in this setting is optimal to allow conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) to be detected at an age where it can be successfully treated, whilst maximising the number of children seen. This is recommended by Public Health England (PHE) and the UK National Screening Committee, and endorsed by the British and Irish Orthoptic Society. Routinely testing at an earlier age can lead to over referral for unnecessary, invasive further testing.
PHE released guidance in October 2017 to support the provision of standardised vision screening across England. These documents promote a national programme with options to adapt onward referral pathways to suit local arrangements, to ensure prompt referral for treatment of any vision problems detected.
Population based vision screening ensures ALL children have equality of access and guarantees children from all socio-economic backgrounds receive vision screening. This is already provided in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Attempts to promote different screening services leads to fragmentation of services, with some Local Authorities dropping services where they believe vision screening is already being provided, further disadvantaging some children. BIOS advocates that vision screening for 4-5 year olds should be provided by every Local Authority.
Parents who are concerned that their Local Authority does not commission vision screening in school for 4-5 year old children should question why this is not happening. Parents who are concerned about their children’s vision at any stage should attend their GP or a local optometrist for assessment.
British and Irish Orthoptic Society