The study will determine the prevalence and causes of vision impairment, blindness and hearing loss in the UK population aged 50 years and older (by gender, age, socio-economic group and geographical area).
This will provide an up-to-date, and comprehensive picture of the UK’s eye health and hearing status.
The study will also measure the detection and treatment coverage rate of major eye diseases and associated conditions, such as diabetes, in order to understand the effectiveness of current services.
The 25,000 people surveyed will be asked questions around their participation in health services and their employment status to understand their level of interaction with eye health services and the effectiveness of them, as well as to understand the impact of eye health on employment levels.
How it will work
We will gather data for a representative sample of people from all regions of the UK.
This will ensure that a true picture of the nation is gathered, which in turn will help government to target services appropriately, addressing inequalities in disease risk, access and provision of healthcare.
Each participant enrolled in the UKNEHS will undergo a simple eye and hearing examination and complete a standardised general questionnaire.
Interviews and examinations will be conducted primarily at the participant’s home and where that is not possible, they will be delivered in a local clinical site, such as a GP surgery.
A sample size of 25,000 adults aged 50 years and above is recommended to permit estimation prevalence with precision and ensure a sample that is representative of the UK population. This includes prevalence of blindness, and all ocular diseases more frequent than 0.4% in this age group.
The sample will be organised by 500 UK postcode sectors, with 50 eligible adults from each cluster participating.
Participants will receive a number of eye tests and a hearing test and be asked questions around their overall health and social care needs, access to health services and effectiveness of eye health services.
The examination comprises:
Participant consent to participate in the survey and have their data collected
Visual acuity check (distance and near)
Eye pressure measurement
Dilated retinal photographs
A national coordination centre (NCC) will be established to plan, monitor recruitment and examinations, manage the data and take responsibility of the analysis and reporting of the results.
Data will be captured electronically during the survey, using bespoke tablet-based software developed for the Australian NEHS and adapted for the UK. Data will be processed by a central reading centre at Queen’s University Belfast. Where possible, this should be linked to other health records to enable analysis of the follow-up pathway.
In each cluster area, proactive engagement will take place as part of the project set up to agree an appropriate referral route for those who have problems with their sight identified during the survey.
A key element of the UKNEHS is ‘research with service’; if participants are identified as having an unmet need, they will be referred via the appropriate local pathway to receive treatment. Participants who are referred onwards to other services will be followed throughout their journey so that their progress can be measured.
The process for this will be defined in partnership with health providers in more detailed planning phases of the project.