All eyes on us: free eyes tests and the potential to change thousands of lives

As we welcome World Glaucoma Week, Vision Express is hitting the UK roads again with its Vision Van.

CEO Jonathan Lawson explains the reasons behind their sight saving campaign.


As CEO of one of the UK’s leading optical health companies, you would expect me to take a keen interest in the business of eye health. But on a personal level, what really drives me is the truly massive potential for improvements to people’s lives through very simple action.

To paint you a picture: according to the RNIB, every fifteen minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose his or her sight – that’s over two million people with preventable sight loss, and more than 300,000 people living with undiagnosed glaucoma, one of the biggest causes of vision loss. Despite the fact that close blood relatives have an increased risk of developing glaucoma, a staggering 72 per cent of those with a family history are completely unaware of the fact that they are at-risk of the developing the condition.

So, the scale of the problem of untreated impaired vision is huge, but the great news is that with detection early on, and follow-up treatment, life-limiting eye health conditions such as glaucoma can be managed and prevented from causing serious problems to a person’s health and lifestyle.

When you consider the range of activities and experiences that rely on healthy eyesight – from cycling to driving, painting to gardening – the potential impact of sight loss to a person’s quality of life becomes startlingly clear. For example, without my father’s help with our family’s vegetable patch, our home-grown efforts would doubtlessly fail, but because he’s taken his eye health seriously throughout his life, he continues to enjoy a full range of activities that rely on healthy vision. And we get to eat fresh vegetables on a regular basis!

So why do so few people take their eye health seriously? Research suggests that concerns over financial and time cost prevent people from going for regular eye tests, alongside a lack of awareness of the risks of glaucoma and the impact of poor eyesight on later life. For that reason, World Glaucoma Week gives us a unique opportunity to show people how quick, easy – and free! – eyesight tests can be. Last year, our Vision Van picked up a number of eye health related concerns – referring several visitors for a visit with their GP.

For the over 65s fear of being told that eyesight is deteriorating, and the associated implications for driving, might partly explain why many people in this group do not take up their free NHS eye tests. However, what’s clear is that a commitment to routine tests every two years could save thousands of people from eyesight loss every year, and ensure a healthy, safer approach to eyesight in later life.

Another factor deterring people from regular eye health checks is the fact that eyesight can deteriorate so gradually over time that up to 40 per cent of vision can be lost without a person noticing. According to our own research, around 94 per cent of drivers are unaware of this fact, so we currently have a situation in which thousands of UK drivers may be unaware that their eyesight is significantly impaired.

All these factors mean we at Vision Express take our responsibility to promoting better eye health very seriously indeed. World Glaucoma Week is the perfect opportunity to highlight and reinforce that commitment with hands-on, free screenings for people in some of the UK’s most glaucoma-affected cities. With the IGA by our side, we are offering a unique, expert service that anyone can take advantage of, regardless of age or health history.

Our team always get excited when we get the chance to tour the country with our Vision Van, because it gets such a fantastic reception from the public wherever we go. This year, between 13th – 17th March we’re visiting Manchester, York, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stockton on Tees. If last year is anything to go by, our teams will be stopping glaucoma in its tracks and changing lives along the way. That makes me very proud indeed.

To download your Free Eye Test voucher (valid until the 30th April, 2017) click here.

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