House of Lords hosts VCHP

Supporters and volunteers gathered at The House of Lords this week to hear more about Vision Care for Homeless People. The group called on the NHS to ensure that the healthcare needs of homeless people are fully met.

Elaine Styles, Chair VCHP, speaking to the 60 delegates, said –

“Homeless People have significant eye care needs which are often neglected. We commend the work of VCHP in redressing this health inequality.”

Having carried out more than 9,000 eye examinations and dispensed thousands of pairs of specs in the 12 years of the charity, the need for this service has not diminished. Three centres in London, and others in Brighton, Manchester and Birmingham provide a local service but expanding the charity’s work is limited by funding, guests were told.

“The prescription range of patients seen in the our clinics has been from +17D to -20D, and without spectacles 35% of our patients could be considered to have a functional visual impairment. Our clinics are registered as practices with the local Area Team and comply with all their standards and regulations. If we carry out an eye examination on a person eligible for NHS services we can claim vouchers but if a person isn’t eligible then the charity covers the cost.”

Accessibility to eye care
Some 54% attending the clinics are not eligible for an NHS sight test. Additionally, people are only eligible for one spectacle voucher every two years.

“Homeless people are more likely to have their property stolen, or be assaulted and their specs might be lost or broken beyond repair sooner than the two year interval. Homeless people can feel uncomfortable going into a high-street opticians and may be embarrassed about not having an address to give,” said Elaine.

Availability of Eye Care
Some optometrists used to provide eye examinations on a domiciliary basis, but NHS changes to domiciliary care regulations in 2008 made this more difficult to meet the needs of homeless people, claimed the charity.

How we can change this
“We would like to make an addition to our current model of care from one where homeless people come to us, to one where we go to places where homeless people reside or go to, normally Day centres or Hostels. We would use our fixed centres as a base for a mobile service. We would then be able to reach far more homeless people more effectively without opening further centres. In order to do this, we would have to operate under the second NHS Additional Services (or Mobile) contract.”

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