In a recent letter to Jonathan Devereux, NHS England’s Senior Programme Lead for optical commissioning, our President Professor Bernie Chang and chair of our Paediatric Sub-Committee Susmito Biswas outlined the College’s concerns over proposed changes to the Special School Eye Care Service (SSECS). We have also raised our concerns with MPs in Parliament.
Following an evaluation of the current service, proposals have been put forward to focus on residential schools, which account for a very small percentage of all special schools in the UK, with no guarantee of funding for day schools.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has been involved in developing the service since 2016 and is concerned about the impact the removal of the SSECS will have on children.
- Children receiving treatment within a SSECS may not have any ongoing care after March 2023.
- Children have been discharged in anticipation of the SSECS service starting, risking vulnerable children being lost between services.
- If all the children are referred back into hospital eye services, they may not receive the specialist care they need in a timely way.
The current SSECS is ensuring that children are being optimally managed in the community with the specialist care they need and which parents find much easier to access, alleviating anxiety during ongoing care of their children.
A pause in the roll-out, and/or a scaled back roll-out offered only to residential schools brings a risk of children being lost between services. There is a very real risk that children in a SSECS day facility will not have any ongoing care after March 2023.
While the College supports the evaluation of a new service to identify areas for improvement, it is important to highlight the broader context in which the SSECS was created and the benefits it provides to the most vulnerable eye patients. In determining the future direction of the service, consideration must be given to the views of schools, parents and providers
Read the letter here: NHS England Special School Eye Care Service (SSECS) at risk