Avoidable blindness and vision loss comes at a significant economic cost to the individual and the UK economy as a whole. In an era of tightening public spending, we must shift our focus to earlier intervention. UKNEHS data will help to target services effectively.
Significant wider economic benefits will result if the data from the study is used to impact service provision models. The economic cost benefit of dealing with preventable vision loss is significant – in terms of impacts on the individual, their families/carers, the NHS, social care and the exchequer.
Applying sophisticated data analytics to a national data set of eye health prevalence would better support research and enable commissioners to measure the impact of change for new, different interventions, with early detection and timely access to services and treatment to reduce unnecessary vision loss.
Any participant with an undiagnosed eye disease that can be detected through the study’s testing protocol will be referred to an eye care professional working within the UKNEHS network, directly addressing identified conditions and reducing future costs associated with late diagnosis
Direct Cost Saving
An RNIB Access Economics Report commissioned in 2015 states that the total economic cost to the UK of sight loss and blindness was estimated at £28 billion in 2003, and the cost to the NHS is high. Two of the top four highest expenditure NICE-appraised medications prescribed in hospitals relate to the treatment of the eye. Cataract is the most commonly performed surgery in the NHS, with costs estimated at ~£950 per surgery.The early identification of cataracts would enable people to take early measures to slow the progression of the condition and help people to stay economically productive for longer.
Other Cost Saving
Beyond the direct costs, those with visual impairment are more likely to access other health services due to an increased likelihood of factors such as falls, depression and dementia. Those with distance vision loss have double the risk of dementia, and those with near vision impairment have three times the risk as those with normal vision.