National Vision Coalition

Image of the National Vision CoalitionThe National Vision Coalition (NVC) is a multi-stakeholder group created by Fighting Blindness and the NCBI – The National Sight Loss Agency, along with healthcare professionals, patient representatives and people working in vision-related advocacy and healthcare. The coalition is comprised of: NCBI (Chair), Fighting Blindness (Chair), Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO), Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI), Irish Guide Dogs, ChildVision, Diabetes Ireland, the HSE, and The National Rehabilitation Hospital.

On December 10, 2015, the National Vision Coalition (NVC) launched its Election Manifesto 2016, calling on the next government to publish and implement a National Vision Strategy for Ireland that will provide adequate pathways to care for people affected by sight loss, mapping their needs from diagnosis to medical intervention and rehabilitation. Investment in the development of treatments and cures for conditions causing sight loss needs to be increased. Policies that will ensure equitable and transparent access to existing therapies and new therapies that will emerge in the coming years need to be implemented. Fighting Blandness, as part of the National Vision Coalition, is central to this, working with all stakeholders in advocating for a national framework for vision health in Ireland.

The NVC called on all parties to commit to the inclusion of this strategy in their programme for Government and outlined the four key areas that need to be prioritised when developing party Manifestos for the General Election 2016 and subsequent Programme for Government.

Priority areas:

1. Implementation of the National Care Plan for Ophthalmology

2. Integrations of Allied Health Professionals in the HSE National Care Plan for Ophthalmology

3. Development of a coherent support service for patients /service users with blindness and vision impairment

4. Embedding of clinical research in clinical facilities

What is required to achieve these key points:

  • Four new Ophthalmic Surgeons

  • Eight new Medical Ophthalmology posts

  • Necessary support staff

  • Optometrists (eight) and Orthoptists (six) assigned to Primary Eye Care teams

  • A comprehensive support infrastructure that anticipates and responds to needs as a consequence of sight loss

  • Provision of rehabilitation training, social re-integration, independent living assistance and access to funded technology/adaptations.

  • Appointment of clinical research teams at HSE sites

  • Defined research time for clinicians

  • Acceptance that involvement in clinical research drives standards and improves outcomes

The National Vision Coalition is asking the public to support its Manifesto and raise the issue with all local candidates in the run-up to the next General Election. For more information contact research@fightingblindness.ie.

History of the National Vision Coalition

Image of the National Vision Coalition logoBlindness and vision impairment cost the Irish state €205 million in 2010, yet up to €76 million could potentially be saved if a series of cost-effective measures for the four main eye diseases in Ireland – cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and wet-age related macular degeneration (wet AMD) – were implemented. This potential saving is particularly relevant since the cost of blindness is expected to increase to €2.5 billion by 2020. These recommended interventions include screening for diabetic retinopathy, which allows for earlier access to treatment, if treatment is required; treatment with anti-VEGF for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD); screening for cataracts; and access to surgery where needed.

In November 2012 the NVC published the document ‘Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach for Vision Health in Ireland’. The framework report highlights some of the statistics around sight loss and the impact that this has on the Irish healthcare system. Over 246,000 people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired and this figure is expected to increase by 20% by 20201. As part of the framework document the National Vision Coalition proposed a number of principles to guide the development of a future national strategy, these include;

  • Any future strategy must include the full agenda of eye health for children and adults
  • Maximising quality and assuring the safety of all who access services will be the first consideration at all times
  • All services and supports will be provided on a person-centred basis with a core emphasis on adopting a life-course approach
  • People with sight loss will have the supports in place to enable them to live fulfilled lives, exercising choice and control in their lives
  • Services will be provided using seamless pathways traversing health care, social care and the voluntary sector
  • Resource allocation and service design will be guided by evidence-based approaches where equality of access to treatment, rehabilitation and support is prioritised
  • Research will serve as a key enabler in our continuous commitment to improve outcomes and the quality of care provided
  • The strategic development of eye health and support care in Ireland will be aligned as appropriate with the wider Public Health policy framework

In July 2013 the National Vision Coalition presented the ‘Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach for Vision Health in Ireland’ to TDs, calling on the government to implement recommendations which focus on eye health in Ireland, specifically the elimination of avoidable blindness, in line with the VISION 2020* initiative, which the Irish government signed up to in 2003.

In April 2014 the National Vision Coalition launched a report on the ‘Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Disease and Preventable Blindness in Ireland’ and called for the immediate implementation of a National Vision Strategy. The aim of the report – which is part of a pan-European study of 16 countries by Deloitte – was to analyse the impact and burden of blindness and the most prevalent eye diseases in Ireland, and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent eye disease and blindness. The report found that five people per week became blind in Ireland since 2010, despite 75 to 80% of blindness being preventable. It reinforces the immediate need to eliminate avoidable sight loss in Ireland and reflects similar findings in countries across Europe. You can read more about the report launch here.

On July 3, 2014, the National Vision Coalition presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health seeking development of a National Vision Strategy. This was followed on July 8 by a statement in the Dáil by Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, about the economic cost and burden of preventable eye disease in Ireland and the need for a National Vision Strategy.

On July 16, 2014, Seanad Eireann debated a motion on the implementation of a National Vision Strategy. The motion called for the Minister of Health to act upon the recommendations of the National Vision Coalition to implement cost-effective measures to prevent avoidable blindness in Ireland. The motion received cross-party support and was backed unanimously by the Seanad. The motion was put forward by Senator Martin Conway who is the Government spokesperson on Justice, Disability and Equality in the Seanad.

*VISION 2020, which began in the year 2000, is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). In May 2013 the 66th World Health Assembly unanimously approved the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment 2014-2019 – Towards Universal Eye Health. The Global Action Plan (GAP) is a commitment endorsed by all WHO Member States to improve eye health for everyone over the next five years. It builds upon and replaces previous VISION 2020 and 2009 – 2013 Action Plans. Its goal is to reduce avoidable visual impairment as a global public health problem and to secure access to rehabilitation services for people who are visually impaired.

1.  NCBI (2011) The Cost of Sight Loss – The economic impact of vision impairment and blindness in the Republic of Ireland.