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Sinn Féin call for re-introduction of Free Eye Testing

13 September, 2006

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has called for the reintroduction of universal free eyes tests in a bid to improve people eyesight and general health.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Thousands of people are at risk of needlessly losing their sight through treatable eye conditions. Preventing avoidable sight loss and improving provision for blind and partially sighted people are part of the same challenge. The reintroduction of the free eye test for everyone is something that is achievable if it is prioritised. In Scotland the free eye will be available 2007. There is no reason that if we get the return of the Assembly and Executive that we cannot bring in similar measures here.

"Many people are putting off having their eyes tested regularly because they simply cant afford it. In many cases people leave it too late and by that time they do go for a test the damage to their eyesight is done. People in all areas of the health service should to be able to access appropriate treatment as quickly as possible, and eye care is no different

"Eye treatment and care should be an important element of our vision for improved public health and a free service should be available and focused on the needs of individuals and tailored to their symptoms. It's recommended that people get their eyes tested once every two years and that this should increase as the patient age rises particularly in order to identify illnesses such as glaucoma in order to provide early treatment.

"As well as making the case for the re introduction of free test, Sinn Féin believe there is an onus on all health authorities and statuary agencies to inform people about their entitlement to financial assistance, particularly those currently entitled to the free eye test and financial support for those in low paid employment and that pensioners are aware of their entitlements." ENDS

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