Increasing risk to children's eyesightWhich? exposes postcode lottery of screening

21 October 2011

Child vision infographic

Which? has used freedom of information (FOI) requests to expose a worsening postcode lottery of vision screening for children. 

This means that preventable sight problems could be missed, leading to problems with learning.

Between 10% and 15% of children have significant eye problems, so the Department of Health expects primary care trusts (PCTs) to arrange a three-minute screening test for each child starting school. 

But 19% of PCTs that responded to our FOI requests haven't arranged testing this academic year - nearly double that of 2009/10 when 10% didn't screen children. 

Sight problems for life

If sight problems aren't picked up and further investigations carried out, children can be left with life-long problems such as squints or lazy eyes. 

These problems can leave children unable to see writing on white boards. Also, they may have difficulty reading generally as words drift in and out of focus, leading to concerns about wasted education.

Varied take-up

Which? research published in May showed that even when screening was offered, the percentage of children who actually received this within PCTs ranged between 35% and 99%. 

Parental agreement is one of the problems causing the differences in uptake of screening.   

Free eye tests

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) stresses that parents need straightforward advice so they can make informed choices about their children's health. 

Parents can take their child for a free eye test until the age of 16.

More on this...

  • Read about our recent investigation into opticians on the high street.
  • See the best online sites for buying baby and child products.
  • Visit NHS Choices for details of screening that children should be getting.