Children waiting for eye tests, optometrists claim

Optometrists insist they should be allowed carry out checks alongside doctors


The school eye-screening system is failing children with up to four year delays for crucial follow up exams to catch and treat various conditions, the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) has warned.

There are also concerns that children are not being sufficiently tested for reading vision problems, a situation that poses an “unacceptable risk” of learning difficulties and which could compromise a child’s future.

Optometric advisor Lynda McGivney-Nolan said waiting times for exams could be dramatically reduced if the HSE allowed community optometrists, as well as eye doctors, to carry out checks.

“We know that many vision problems, if caught and managed before the age of seven, are reversible,” she said.

“However, this week we have confirmed that the waiting time for follow up exams from the State’s school eye screening system is 47 months (almost 4 years) in Kildare. The delay was recently reported to be three years in Dublin and is a minimum of two years.”

She said because the State screening takes place when children are five or six years old, they often will not get the specialist treatment they require until after the critical age of seven.

The AOI says that the Competition Authority had previously held children should be seen by optometrists but that this had not been put into practice.

“Up to third class children learn to read. After third class they read to learn,” said Ms McGivney-Nolan, launching the association’s Bright Eyes awareness week.

“Any undiagnosed problems with reading vision, by this stage, will seriously impact on the child’s ability to learn properly.”

The Bright Eyes campaign aims to highlight the importance of correct and timely diagnosis and treatment of problems.

From the 25th to the 30th of this month, independent optometrists across the country will be offering a “six point vision check” either free of charge or at a nominal cost, as well as visiting schools.