The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has been involved in developing the Special School Eye Care Service (SSECS) since 2016. The service ensures that children are optimally managed in the community with accessible specialist care, while reducing waiting lists and backlogs in hospital eye services.
In November 2022, we wrote to NHS England’s lead for optical commissioning to express our concerns that this service appeared to be under threat – with the future focus planned to be on residential schools (which account for a very small percentage of all special schools in the UK) and no guarantee of funding for day schools.
These changes would have meant children currently receiving treatment within a SSECS would not have critical ongoing care after March 2023, vulnerable children could be lost between services or would not receive timely specialist care if referred back into the hospital eye service.
As Optometry Today has reported in late December, it appears that NHS England has listened to the concerns expressed by RCOphth and a number of other organisations and extended the evaluation of the scheme until August 2023.
RCOphth will continue to influence the evaluation and make the case for the positive role played by the SSECS.
Commenting on the development, Chair of the RCOphth Paediatric Sub-committee Susmito Biswas said:
‘The impact on vulnerable children of ending the Special School Eye Care Service could be devastating, so it is welcome that NHS England is taking more time to evaluate the service.
While it is important to identify areas for improvement, we must not forget the benefits of this service to the children and their families. It is crucial that the evaluation takes on board the views of schools, parents and providers. RCOphth will continue to play a key role in shaping the evaluation’.