A previous colleague of mine, Linda McGivney-Nolan recently was quoted in Optometry Today, a UK magazine- she was highlighting the problems with children who might fail a school screening.
Apparently, there is nearly a 4 year waiting list to have a child seen in Kildare, up to 3 years in Dublin. In our area I recently enquired about the waiting time for a couple of children I wished to refer, both of whom had significant problems- Navan clinic quoted me 12 to 18 months, with a faxed referral, though they would try to get them a sooner cancellation if I insisted it could not wait that long. The other child would normally go to Cavan, because of where they live, the waiting list these is approximately the same I was advised.
These waiting lists are unacceptable – both my young patients will have permanent weak eyes if they cannot be seen before the age of 7, at the very latest. At the moment it looks like both will be seven before they are seen.
There is no point in doing the school screenings if there is no suitable referral pathway for those who fail.
Not every Optometrist in Ireland is comfortable seeing children, because it is something that we do less of here than in the UK – the HSE insists that any child who is going to be seen under the community scheme must be seen by the Community Ophthalmologist – in a clinic with a long waiting list. The other issue is that the community scheme entitles your child to eye examinations free of charge, and a contribution towards spectacles, but if you go private, to an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist, you get no help.
Those of us who have either a specialist interest in Paediatric Optometry, or those who have worked in the UK will probably be more confident.
We are more than happy testing children – it adds variety to the day! Parents are welcome to sit in on the test to observe, as long as they don’t inappropriately try to help their child – many point out the correct letters or give clues, which really does not help us establish what the child can see! Children are well able for an eye test usually by 3 to 4 years of age, and though the test would be different to that of an adult it is no less important.