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Sight loss costing UK economy £28bn

Thursday, 08 September 2016

SIGHT loss is costing the UK economy £28billion annually[i], a report from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Specsavers has revealed.

The State of the Nation: Eye Health 2016 report – which will be unveiled at the House of Lords today – found the figure, which has soared from £22billion when last calculated in 2008[ii], could be significantly reduced by better public take-up of routine eye tests, and by earlier diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions.

Written by RNIB, supported by Specsavers and supplemented by an independent YouGov poll* of more than 10,000 UK adults, the State of the Nation: Eye Health 2016 report is the most significant and comprehensive insight into the health of the nation’s eyes in recent years. It supports a £3m multi-media public health awareness campaign by RNIB and Specsavers to transform eye health and reduce preventable sight loss in the UK.

More than six million people in the UK live with sight-threatening conditions or uncorrected refractive error. Some may not yet be experiencing any symptoms and may have no idea that anything is wrong. Of these, more than two million people are living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily lives. This figure is set to increase to more than 2.7 million by 2030, driven by an increase in the UK’s ageing demographic. Although nearly half of all cases of sight loss in the UK could have been prevented, 14 million people in Britain[iii] are not having an eye test as recommended at least every two years.

RNIB acting CEO Sally Harvey says: ‘An ageing population, rapidly growing demand for eye health and care services, and capacity problems in some clinics at a time of growing budget deficits, means that we are facing an extremely challenging time for eye health in the UK.

‘Improving the nation’s eye health is an enormous challenge but we must rise to it and take action now to stop people needlessly losing their sight. 

‘Regular eye tests and early detection on the high street, followed by timely intervention and management of eye health conditions, could help to save sight as well as saving the public purse millions of pounds each year.’

Specsavers founder Doug Perkins, an optometrist of more than 50 years, says: ‘It’s astonishing that so many people are needlessly living with or at risk of sight loss in the UK today. Nearly half of all sight loss cases are preventable – and a simple eye test can be the first step in prevention.

‘Our mission with RNIB is to transform the nation’s eye health through education, awareness and action; we want to reverse these worrying eye health trends that are putting unnecessary pressure on the health service.

‘That’s why we have invested £3 million to educate people about the importance of looking after their eye health. Prevention is critical. We don’t care where people have an eye test, we just care that they do.’  

RNIB and Specsavers’ Transforming Eye Health awareness campaign, was launched at the House of Lords event, hosted by Lord Low of Dalston, CBE, Co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment.

It was attended by leading figures from the optical, healthcare and charitable professions, including RNIB President Dame Gail Ronson DBE, RNIB Vice-President, and campaign ambassador Penny Lancaster (Lady Stewart), as well as Specsavers co-founders Doug and Dame Mary Perkins.


Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of Specsavers


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[i] Pezzullo, L., Streatfield, J., Simkiss, P., and Shickle , D. (2016). The economic impact of sight loss and blindness in the UK adult population. RNIB and Deloitte Access Economics. Manuscript submitted for publication.


[ii] Access Economics. (2009). Future Sight Loss 1: The economic impact of partial sight and blindness in the UK adult population. RNIB


[iii] RNIB calculation based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2015). Annual Mid-year Population Estimates: 2014. ONS. Calculation: UK population 18 and over = 51,339,161 x 0.27 = 13.8 million


*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 10,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken in July 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).