What is it about?

Access to eye care in the UK is in need of reform. Recent calls for a national eye health strategy for England have highlight the need for government to address the longstanding health inequality suffered by people affected by homelessness in accessing eye care. Across the optical industry, partners including Integrated Care Boards, Local Optical Committees, Specsavers, and the Association of Optometrists have been working to improve access to care at both local and national levels alongside homelessness charities, Crisis UK and the Big Issue. The charity Vision Care for Homeless People has provided opticians services for people affected by homelessness for 20 years. The authors draw on this experience to highlight the barriers people face. They propose three changes to NHS General Ophthalmic Services to improve access to eye care.

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Why is it important?

When people experience homelessness, they need glasses to look for work, find accommodation or simply to keep themselves safe. However, they are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to obtaining sight tests, glasses and eye care. They suffer a higher level of eye problems than the general population and are unlikely to go to a high street opticians to get an eye test and glasses. The contract by which the NHS funds primary eye care by opticians contains eligibility criteria which create barriers to providing eye care to this population.


For years, the charity Vision Care for Homeless People along with many colleagues within the optical industry have been calling for changes to the General Ophthalmic Services contracts held by Opticians to improve access for people who are affected by homelessness along with other vulnerable groups. There is a need for more research on inclusion health which is focused on eye care. However, with increased use of patient participation techniques involving people with lived experience of homelessness, understanding of their barriers to access is increasing and partners across the optical industry are piloting new ways to deliver eye care.

Vision Care for Homeless People

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Homelessness and equity of access to NHS eye care: the urgent need for reform, British Journal of Healthcare Management, May 2023, Mark Allen Group,
DOI: 10.12968/bjhc.2023.0029.
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