North East Connected

The Eye Pod comes to Newcastle

AN INTERACTIVE sight loss simulator visited Grainger Street in Newcastle last week to educate the public about the importance of eye health and regular eye tests – and Miss Newcastle, Alisha Cowie, dropped by to help promote the important message.

The Specsavers/RNIB Eye Pod demonstrated how the four main eye conditions (Age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts) can affect your sight. The trailer has two cameras on top of the pod which link to screens inside, and it allowed the people of Newcastle to view their surroundings with symptoms of each condition.

They simulator also showed key facts and statistics about each condition. Experts were on hand to offer advice and free eye test vouchers and local lady Alex Mackie and her guide dog Neena also dropped by to lend their support.

The Eye Pod visit comes in light of research published by Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Specsavers that reveals one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidable[i].

The alarming new statistics show that 250 people in the UK start living with sight loss every day[ii]. Women are at greater risk than men, with nearly one in four women set to develop sight loss in their lifetime compared with one in eight men[iii].

Nearly six million people in the UK currently live with sight-threatening conditions[iv] yet 25% of people are not having an eye test every two years[v] as recommended by the College of Optometrists[vi]. The extent of the problem means that nearly every family in Britain is touched by sight problems in some way.

Specsavers Newcastle store director Rachael Aiken, who says: ‘It’s astonishing that so many people are needlessly living with sight loss in the UK today. At least half of all sight loss cases are avoidable and a simple eye test can unearth a number of serious health conditions. Our mission with RNIB is to transform the nation’s eye health through awareness and action; this is an enormous challenge but we must rise to it together and take action now.’

RNIB community engagement officer Jennifer Beadle, who also attended on the day and discussed eye health to the Eye Pod’s Newcastle visitors, says: ‘Our report reveals new evidence that one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime, so our work is now more important than ever. Almost 80% of people living with sight loss are over the age of 64, so with an ageing population that is expected to retire later, more of our national workforce will be impacted by sight loss. Alongside rapidly growing demand for eye care services, and capacity problems in some clinics at a time of growing budget deficits, we are facing an extremely challenging time for eye health in the UK, and we  must take action now.’

The Eye Pod is touring the country to raise awareness and funds in support of RNIB.  Specsavers began a partnership with RNIB in 2016 with the mission of transforming eye health and communicating the vital importance of regular eye examinations, not just for eye sight but also to detect sight and life threatening conditions.

Specsavers and RNIB’s ‘State of the Nation Eye Health 2017: a year in review’ report[vii], also uncovered that:


·         Sight is the nation’s most precious sense by far; 10 times more people (78% of people) said sight was the sense they fear losing most compared to the next most popular sense, smell (8%), followed by hearing (7%)

·         Almost a quarter of people are ignoring the first signs of sight loss; despite not being able to see as well in the distance or close up as they used to, 23% have not sought advice from an optician or medical professional

·         More than 80% of people are not aware that an optician can spot the early signs of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the UK

·         People put their boiler before their eye health; half of UK adults have their boiler serviced once a year, over a third renew their mobile phone contract every two years, while 50% of UK adults last had their eyes tested more than a year ago or never

·         Research suggests Brits check their teeth more often than their eyes; 42% visit the dentist once every 6 months (equating to four times over two years) while 25% of UK adults haven’t had an eye test in the past two years or at all

·         A quarter of people who spend £50 a year on shoes would not be prepared to pay anything at all for an eye test

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