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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, Janaury to March 2020



Fight for Sight convenes leading ophthalmologists for urgent action on the '1 to 20' funding gap
Specs of Kensington minds the gap!
Blindness still provides a shocking barrier to educational success
Vision UK is "Making 2020 the ‘Year of Vision’"
Read archived charity news from October to December 2019 here

Fight for Sight convenes leading ophthalmologists for urgent action on the '1 to 20' funding gap

January 2020

Fight for Sight has convened the UK’s leading ophthalmologists and researchers to draw attention to the ‘1 to 20' funding gap in eye research.

Twelve leaders in the field have signed up to a public letter which is published in today’s Guardian (January 7), calling on the new government to develop a national plan on sight loss.

Currently, only one percent of national research funding is invested in eye research, even though twenty percent of people in the UK will experience serious sight loss or blindness in their lifetime[1].

The prevalence of sight loss is also on the rise – the number of people in Europe with the leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration, is projected to hit 10 million by 2050.[2]

Fight for Sight and other leading experts believe that in 2020 this is shameful, particularly as gene therapies and stem cell treatments are already restoring sight for patients with some eye conditions at clinical trial.

The call comes after the WHO World Vision Report in October 2019 found that more than one billion people worldwide are living with sight loss, which is contributed to by a lack of investment in eye care and research. Moreover, in September 2019 the UN General Assembly political declaration on Universal Health Coverage identified eye health as an area that should be addressed if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Fight for Sight will be conducting a major research study in 2020 which will show the economic and personal impact of sight loss. Blindness can have a huge impact on people’s mental health and ability to work, increasing costs on health systems and infrastructure. Hundreds of people with sight loss will be interviewed for the study and the research will include economic analysis, statistics and a literature review to understand the health economics of serious sight loss and blindness.

The findings, which are due in July 2020, will be used to lobby decision-makers and funding bodies for a national plan on sight loss that will ensure eye research gets the funding it badly needs. Fight for Sight is encouraging everyone who believes action should be taken to prevent more people losing their sight to join them and add their voice to the campaign.

Head of Research at Fight for Sight, Dr Rubina Ahmed said: “It’s shameful that in 2020 so little national research funding goes to eye research, especially when science offers so many possibilities to transform lives and there are breakthroughs happening every day. We’ve seen the first gene therapies for eye diseases become available on the NHS and stem cell treatments are already restoring sight for patients at clinical trial. However, the amount of funding currently is not fit for the scale of the challenge, with hundreds of eye diseases and millions of people affected globally. Science and technology have the answers, the only barrier is the funding to make it happen. We're encouraging everyone to join us and make 2020 the year urgent action is finally taken on sight loss.”

Chris Hammond is the Chair of Ophthalmology at King’s College London, St Thomas’ Hospital, London and Chair of the Grant Application Panel at Fight for Sight.

He said: “We know that serious sight loss doesn’t discriminate - it can affect anyone at any time and it is on the increase. We are so close to outcomes that were not possible a decade ago, yet so much more needs to be done to develop new universal treatments.”

There are currently over two million people in the UK living with sight loss. This number is projected to increase to 2.7 million by 2030 and to double by 2050.

The letter was signed by twelve leading ophthalmologists and researchers from across the UK who are also core members of the Fight for Sight Grant Assessment Panel.

Read the letter

See Story on Opchat's General News Page

Specs of Kensington minds the gap!

January 2020

Daska and Elaine An independent practice in one of the UK’s most affluent areas is set to make a tangible difference to homeless people’s lives with the sponsorship of a community eye care clinic.

Specs of Kensington is to sponsor the Shepherd’s Bush Vision Care for Homeless People clinic for 2020, helping to ensure a better view of the world for hundreds of people. Daska Barnett, owner of

Specs of Kensington, was inspired to donate more than £7,000 to the charity which one of her optometrists, Elaine Styles, co-founded and continues to lead.

“I have enormous respect for what Elaine does. We have worked together in the practice for 26 years and for some time together at Moorfields. As a practice we all felt it was good to consolidate our charitable giving into one cause that will make a real difference and to support Elaine’s unswerving commitment to homeless people. We have sold VCHP greetings cards and sponsored many of

Elaine’s gruelling cycling challenges. Her colleagues looked on proudly when she carried the Olympic torch in 2012 in recognition of her charitable work. The Shepherd’s Bush VCHP clinic is just 1.5 miles from our practice but is a world apart.

“Our practice patients have so many choices through their relative wealth but Elaine’s work with homeless people finds her looking after clients who present with very different and difficult challenges.

She switches so easily from dealing with some of the most privileged in society to the most vulnerable and often unsupported. We are so proud that Elaine is part of our team,” added Daska.

*Added to the latest donation, Specs of Kensington patients and the practice team have donated some £20,000 to the charity in funds and optical equipment since 2012.

Pictures show:

Daska outside Specs of Kensington with Elaine as she sets off on a cycling challenge

Elaine on the Olympic torch bus in 2012 with Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders on headline page

Blindness still provides a shocking barrier to educational success

January 2020

Blind and partially sighted school children are gaining fewer qualifications than their classmates, prompting calls from a sight loss charity for action to close a ‘shocking and unnecessary gap in attainment’.

In a submission made on Thursday, December 19th to a Scottish Government review of additional support for learning, RNIB Scotland says: “Blind and partially sighted pupils require additional support over the course of their education in order to access the curriculum and achieve the same level as their sighted peers.”

Most of Scotland’s estimated 4,570 pupils with significant sight loss are now educated in mainstream schools. But while only two per cent of pupils with no additional support needs failed to achieve at least one National 4 qualification, the figure was 20 per cent for those with sight loss.

Likewise, while 92 per cent of pupils with no additional needs achieved at least one National 5, only 64 per cent of those with sight loss did. And while 71 per cent with no additional needs achieved at least one Higher, only 40 per cent of those with sight loss did.

But RNIB Scotland insists: “With the right support visual impairment does not have to have an impact on the potential of a pupil to achieve. There is no reason why this attainment gap could not be significantly narrowed if the correct provision is in place.”

However, the charity points to a 2016 survey that found of the 94 teachers in Scottish schools with - or training to obtain – an additional qualification in teaching children with a visual impairment, their median age was 50, meaning many could soon be retiring.

Alarmingly, there is little incentive to encourage more teachers to take the additional qualification needed. Funding, lack of time, and distance from training provision can discourage more teachers from choosing to adopt this specialist role. To compound the problem, there is no extra financial incentive either.

In its submission, RNIB Scotland says: “The Scottish Government should anticipate this potential shortfall and incentivise teachers to obtain the qualification. Incentives could include financial support and time out of class in order to study for the qualification.”

It also urges that more training is given to teachers and classroom assistants generally on how to support pupils with sight loss.

The charity has welcomed a recent £15m funding boost for additional support for learning but remains concerned that local government cuts could still put budgets at risk. “We urge the Scottish Government to produce an additional support for learning attainment gap strategy to close this unnecessary and shocking gap between pupils with a visual impairment and their sighted peers,” it says.

Vision UK is "Making 2020 the ‘Year of Vision’"

January 2020

Vision UK has rightly dubbed 2020 the ‘Year of Vision’. It is urging us all to adopt this powerful descriptor to the anniversary of the WHO VISION 2020 Global Initiative to eliminate the main causes of all preventable and treatable blindness as a public health issue by 2020.

Vision UK has identified five objectives for members and associates to sign up to:

1. Together we will raise awareness of the need for medical research to encourage investment in eye health

2. Together we will promote better eye health to prevent sight loss

3. Together we will advocate for improved eye care and the best possible support for children and adults living with vision impairment

4. Together we will celebrate those having a positive impact on people’s vision and daily lives 5. Together we will work towards equality for people who are blind or partially sighted.

FODO fully supports these objectives and will also be making the case in 2020 that improving eye health and addressing refractive error remain a critical part of our national priorities when tackling the burden of disease associated eye problems.

The Year of Vision theme has also been picked up as a rallying theme by the European Coalition for Vision (pan-European not just EU), which is chaired by FODO Director David Hewlett.

These themes will also be to the forefront of thinking at this year's Optrafair 20/20 with live streaming of eye surgery and key speakers addressing the key problems in Vision Loss seen in the UK.

See the program as it expands ready for a memorable Optrafair in the year of 2020 here.

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