MP highlights inequalities

Campaigning MP Steve Barclay
Campaigning MP Steve Barclay

Fenland MP Steve Barclay has welcomed action to improve eye test provision for primary school pupils in Cambridgeshire.

Mr Barclay contacted the County Council’s Public Health directorate to highlight the unequal distribution of eye testing across the county following a number of letters from parents concerned that their children were not able to access pre-school screening.

The parents worry that undiagnosed sight problems would place their children at a disadvantage in their early years learning.

The Council’s review highlighted inequalities in current service provision, meaning that unlike their peers in neighbouring districts, pre-school children in March, Manea and Doddington are not being invited for routine eye testing.

Director of Public Health Dr Liz Robin has assured the MP that the Council is now drawing up a plan to upgrade vision screening services in the affected areas and would be developing a long term plan to roll out eye testing to primary school age pupils across Cambridgeshire.

Mr Barclay said: “The unequal provision of eye testing for pre- and primary school pupils in certain areas clearly has the potential to put children at a disadvantage in their learning.

“It is vitally important that vision problems are addressed early on before they have the chance to hold pupils back in their crucial first years at school. It is great news the County Council is prioritizing vision screening in the areas we identified and is undertaking an urgent review of services throughout Cambridgeshire.

“A number of families have contacted me to highlight this issue and I am glad that we have seen real movement on updating services from Cambridgeshire County Council. I look forward to working with them to ensure that this gap in provision is resolved and that all pupils get a fair start from the word go.”

Screening for visual impairment in children of 4 and 5 years of age is currently included in the Healthy Child Programme recommendations, however many children do not have the opportunity to visit an orthoptist or specialist vision screening practitioner until sight problems are identified in the classroom.

At present, pupils in different areas of Cambridgeshire are able to access specialist vision screening services at varying ages in community clinics or schools.

Eye checks for children are free of charge and can be arranged via the Council’s Child Health Information Service.