Free eye tests save future costs

YOUR editorial titled “Counting the cost of government giveaways” (27 October, News) mentioned eye examinations among the range of universal “free” benefits available in Scotland. In fact, eye tests are an integral part of the healthcare journey and Scotland’s strategy to tackle avoidable blindness. They should not, therefore, be included in the debate over universality.

Since their introduction in 2006, free eye health examinations have led to more sight-threatening conditions being identified earlier on, when treatment can arrest or prevent visual impairment. Eye examinations can also detect other health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke and tumours.

Prevention can be a hard sell in the current financial climate. Savings don’t become evident for years down the line and the impact is invisible when potential impairments don’t happen. But we are an ageing population and inevitably more and more Scots will become vulnerable to sight loss conditions.

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As well as the huge emotional cost of losing your vision, it makes compelling financial sense to contain this increase as far as possible. As the adage goes, it’s cheaper to build a fence at the top of a cliff than a hospital below.

John Legg, director, Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland

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