Proposed new eye care service for children in special schools in Wales

New plans to establish an eye care service for pupils and students at special schools in Wales have been unveiled by Health and Social Services Minister, Mark Drakeford.

The proposed new service will be known as SPECS (School Pupil Eye Care Service) and will provide specialist eye care for each child and young person in a special school in Wales.

Visual impairment and blindness is relatively rare in children. However, research by Cardiff University in 2012 revealed that children with learning disabilities are at a much higher risk of sight problems, eye health disorders and refractive errors.

Special School Ophthalmic teams consisting of optometrists, orthoptists and dispensing opticians will provide the service to pupils within the school setting during the school day. It will form part of the existing primary care Wales Eye Care Services.

The service will:

  • Offer a comprehensive assessment when pupils first start special school;
  • Offer pupils and students a regular sight test that will be performed in the familiar surroundings of their special school;
  • Give pupils and students in special schools, their parents and carers the choice to have the spectacles fitted and dispensed at school;
  • Make referrals to agencies and professionals as appropriate;
  • Ensure test results are explained to pupils, their families and teachers, as well as their healthcare professionals, throughout their school life and in transition to adulthood.

When a student leaves special school they will receive a "vision passport" with details of their visual needs. This will help to ensure they remain in the care of eye care services into adulthood.

Professor Drakeford said:

"Preventing avoidable sight loss and the early identification of sight problems starts in childhood but for children and young people with learning disabilities there is evidence of barriers to accessing eye care and high unmet need.

"I very much look forward to hearing people's views about our plans for the SPECS service.

"The service will ensure all pupils and students attending special schools in Wales have access to ophthalmic services, making the right support available at the right time and in the right place for our most vulnerable learners."

The proposed new service is subject to a three-month consultation and can be viewed on the Welsh Government website: http://gov.wales/consultations/healthsocialcare/eye-care/?lang=en. Deadline for responses: 02/05/2016