OPTICIANS IN IRELAND have today launched a campaign calling for improved eyecare services for 12 to 16-year-olds, who are “falling into a gap” in current services.
EyeZone, which represents almost 100 independent opticians across the country said approximately 10 per cent of children up to the age of 12 require glasses or contact lenses, while more than 20 per cent need them by the age of 16.
The body has called the situation unacceptable and said it is writing to Health Minister James Reilly and to the HSE to address the issue.
Chairman of EyeZone, Diarmuid Keane said the fact that the number wearing glasses or contact lenses more than doubles between the ages of 12 and 16 “highlights the critical importance of a well planned and dedicated public eyecare scheme”.
Under current services children up to the age of 12 receive two publicly funded eye tests through the School Medical Scheme. After 12 some may receive care if their parents have a medical card, but this varies significantly across the country and Keane said the majority of these children receive no eyecare at all. At 16 those with medical cards become eligible for adult services.
To address the issue in the immediate term, members of EyeZone are offering a free full eye exam to all children between the age of 12 and 16 for the month of March.
“We need a specific scheme to target this age group which is reliable and consistent countrywide,” Keane said.
Local Opticians will also be raising the issue with their TDs and providing information for the public under the slogan ‘Mind the Vision Gap’.
Details of all participating Opticians which include most counties across the country are at www.eyezone.ie.