A UK National Eye Health and Hearing Study (UKNEHS) has been developed to address the desperate need in the UK for high quality, up-to-date data on hearing loss and eye health, so that the UK can plan future services in the most effective way, improve outcomes for those affected, and develop a more effective public health strategy in these crucial areas.
It will be a nation-wide study encompassing all four nations and will focus on four key objectives; Effectiveness, Efficiency, Economy and Compliance, with digital transformation opportunities remaining at the heart of the study. More specifically, it will identify the prevalence and causes of vision and hearing impairment in the UK population aged 50 and over, providing an up-to-date and comprehensive picture of the UK’s hearing and eye health.
The case for change
Sight loss has been estimated to cost the UK more than £28 billion per annum and hearing loss more than £30 billion. Despite these huge numbers, we don’t have the data we need to understand how to improve services and deliver them more efficiently and effectively to reduce these figures. We desperately need high quality, up-to-date data on hearing loss and eye health, so that we can plan future services and improve outcomes for the UK population. This is essential if the NHS’s Long Term Plan is to be delivered successfully in the eye health and hearing sectors.
The UKNEHS will provide population-based research to provide real data on the magnitude and distribution of the most frequent causes of sight and hearing loss. It will offer opportunities to look at these causes by risk factor analysis including demographic and social determinants of health. It will combine this with analysis of current service models across the UK, allowing the impact of local differences to be investigated in relation to the health outcomes produced, enabling effective evaluation of current models of care.
Benefits and delivery of a successful UKNEHS
The study will deliver immediate benefit to the 1,500 individuals with previously undetected vision and hearing problems, ensuring they receive the interventions needed to treat or manage their condition. It will also offer improved outcomes for people over the long term, by gathering data on prevalence to establish a greater understanding on the causes and incidence of eye disease and hearing loss.
Better targeting of services and increased awareness of eye and hearing health will improve health and wellbeing outcomes for the wider UK population.
Finance and Funding
There is no national tariff or mandate for primary eye care and community ophthalmology services. They rely heavily on new funding and the drive from local commissioners to reconfigure services and break down the traditional barriers between different parts of the eye care sector and different providers.
Ophthalmology is the second largest department in the NHS, the cost for total inpatient and outpatient activity in 2016/2017 was ~£1.4 billion, an increase of approximately £332 million since 2012.
A full economic costing has costed the study at £16 million over 3 years. This figure is 0.2% of the overall £2.5 billion spent by the NHS on eyecare in the UK annually, in other words a relatively small investment in order to target overall spend. Return on investment includes reduced pressure on NHS services, reducing costs to other related services (e.g. falls prevention), reduced risk of developing other long-term conditions related to vision/hearing loss (e.g. dementia), reducing impact on social care, increasing employment and improved targeting of current expenditure.
Progress to date
After positive meetings with representatives from the Treasury and Public Health England, we are hopeful that the study will be included in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review due to take place later this year. We would welcome your support in promoting this much needed study, please get in touch with us if you would like further information or if you can support us in anyway regarding securing funding for the study, stakeholder and public engagement and ultimately, the delivery across the UK.