Services available to people in West Sussex with very poor eyesight are not spread fairly throughout the county, the Royal National Institute for the Blind has said.
In 2018, the Brighton & Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) withdrew funding for Low Vision Services, including a clinic at the Princess Royal Hospital, in Haywards Heath, transferring responsibility to the local authority.
A County Hall meeting has heard that patients in Horsham and Mid Sussex were hit hardest by the cut, with some now having to be referred elsewhere for help and having to pay for things such as magnifiers, which are free across the rest of the county.
The RNIB has now teamed up with the county council, Healthwatch and the Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex and, Coastal West Sussex CCG to carry out a review of the situation and report back to the council in the autumn.
At a meeting of the health and adult social care select committee (HASC) on Wednesday, Christine Glanville, the RNIB’s network manager for South East England, called for the Princess Royal clinic to be reinstated.
She added: “While we welcome the review, we think that during this time there is a need to reinstate a low vision service for those patients who’ve had no low vision service for over a year now.
“Particularly residents of Mid Sussex are adversely affected, having to self-fund and pay a fee for a service that is universally free for others across West Sussex.”
Ms Glanville said there were an estimated 5,000 people in Horsham and Mid Sussex who were living with sight loss – which is slightly above the national average.
While agreeing that the low vision service was not fairly spread, Wendy Young of the Crawley, Horsham & Mid Sussex & Coastal West Sussex CCG, said it would be ‘very difficult to reinstate a service that was actually decommissioned by another CCG’.
Paul McKay, the council’s director of adults’ services, said: “It’s not that people aren’t able to get advice around low vision – they are – but it’s just an inequity in terms of how that is provided across the area and also in terms of what’s provided free.”
There were also concerns that not enough people were even aware of the help available to them.
Frances Russell, of Healthwatch West Sussex, said: “People are very unaware of any service availability. Therefore people are not accessing it and not taking it up.
“So even what is available is not being used to its full potential.
“I think there’s a real need to get this service sorted out and publicised because a lot of people are actually muddling around with low vision and not accessing a service support that could be and should be there and available for them.”