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Sight is central to human experience and how we engage with the world around us. Sight loss – the partial or complete loss of sight – can be devastating. Roche, the Macular Society, Fight for Sight, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and Association of Optometrists have partnered to call on Parliament to take action to prevent avoidable sight loss.

Sight loss is not inevitable. But we need to act fast. Let’s make sure everyone experiencing sight loss can access the care they need by reimagining capacity and access to eye care services in the NHS.

We all can play a part by raising awareness of sight loss. The first step is learning about its prevalence and impact.


In the UK, it is estimated that there are over 2 million people living with sight loss1,2.


Nearly 1.5m people in the UK have macular disease. It affects people of all ages. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common condition, generally affecting people over the age of 553.


The prevalence of sight loss is rising. It is predicted the number of people with sight loss will rise to over 3.5 million by 20504. The number of people experiencing sight loss at some point during their lifetime is as high as 1 in 55.


According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, in 2016-17 there were an estimated 246 people every day who started to experience permanent sight loss sight loss which is not temporary or cannot be reversed for example through treatment or blindness in the UK – almost 1 person every 5.8 minutes6.

The impact of sight loss can be devastating. Loss of sight can impact someone’s quality of life, independence, mobility7, and emotional wellbeing8.


90% of vision impairment or blindness is preventable or treatable9. Some conditions must be treated quickly to prevent worsening of vision10.


In recent years, demand for eye services has risen rapidly, with referrals from primary care up by 12% since 2013/14. Providers of NHS eye care services are struggling to keep pace with the rising demand11.


Research has suggested that between 15 and 22 patients a month will suffer deterioration of vision (including permanent sight loss) resulting from delays to follow up care12.

“Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, with cases increasing even before the pandemic. We know the earlier wet AMD is treated, the more effective the treatment is, so we must make sure the NHS is making best use of the whole healthcare system – from opticians, to GPs, to specialists in hospitals – so patients are treated quickly. It’s clear this needs to happen now, so I urge parliamentarians and policymakers to support The Eyes Have It and push for a more joined-up eye health system.”

Cathy Yelf, Chief Executive, the Macular Society

“Eye conditions cost the UK economy £25.2 billion per year – but behind the numbers are real people, individuals living with life-altering conditions that deserve rapid and necessary access to the top-class care and treatment we know the NHS delivers. The transition to remote consultations and monitoring were accelerated to support people to look after their own eye health from home during the pandemic. But there’s so much more to do, from early-stage research to develop new treatments to making sure that everyone can access the care that they need. We won’t stop until everyone with sight loss has access to the best possible care and treatment.”

Ikram Dahman, Interim Chief Executive, Fight for Sight


  1. Fight for Sight. (2020). Time to Focus. Available: https://www.fightforsight.org.uk/media/3302/time-to-focus-report.pdf. Last accessed 6 August 2021.
  2. Macular Society website.https://www.macularsociety.org/macular-disease/macular-conditions/Last accessed 25 August 2021.
  3. NHS. (2021). Blindness and vision loss. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vision-loss/. Last accessed 6 August 2021.
  4. Fight for Sight. (2020). Time to Focus. Available: https://www.fightforsight.org.uk/media/3302/time-to-focus-report.pdf. Last accessed 6 August 2021.
  5. RNIB, Specsavers. (2017). The State of the Nation Eye Health 2017: A Year in Review. Available: https://www.rnib.org.uk /sites/default/files/ APDF%20The%20 State%20of%2 0the%20Nation %20Eye%20 Health %202017%20A%20 Year %20in%20Review.pdf. Last accessed 6 August 2021.
  6. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on Public Health Approaches to Reduce Vision Impairment and Promote Eye Health; Welp A, Woodbury RB, McCoy MA, et al., editors. Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 Sep 15. 3, The Impact of Vision Loss. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK402367/
  7. RNIB. (2021). Coming to terms with sight loss. Available: https://www.rnib.org.uk/recently-diagnosed/coming-terms-sight-loss. Last accessed 6 August 2021.
  8. RNIB. (2021). Incidence and risk of sight loss and blindness in the UK. Available: https://www.rnib.org.uk/professionals/knowledge-and-research-hub/incidence-and-risk-sight-loss-and-blindness-uk. Last accessed 2021.
  9. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Vision Atlas, 1.1 billion people live with vision loss; https://www.iapb.org/ learn/vision-atlas/ #:~:text= Preventable%20 or%20 treatable-,90% 25%20of %20 vision%20loss%20is%20 preventable%20or%20 treatable., have%20 near%20 uncorrected%20 refractive%20 errors.
  10. Macular Society, Treatments; https://www.macularsociety.org/diagnosis-treatment/treatments/
  11. NHS Getting It Right First Time, Ophthalmology, GIRFT Programme National Specialty Report, Carrie MacEwen, Alison Davis and Lydia Chang, December 2019, https://gettingitrightfirsttime.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/OphthalmologyReportGIRFT19P-FINAL.pdf
  12. Foot, B., MacEwen, C. Surveillance of sight loss due to delay in ophthalmic treatment or review: frequency, cause and outcome. Eye 31, 771–775 (2017). https:// doi.org/ 10.1038/ eye.2017.1

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