Record levels of diabetes sufferers increase need for regular eye testing

Jeremy Chadwick

One in 10 people in the UK over the age of 40 now has Type 2 diabetes while 4.7 million people are living with all types of diabetes, according to new research released by the Diabetes UK charity.

The new figures show that in 2017 a total of 202,665 people were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in England or Wales at a rate of 23 an hour. There are currently 3.8 million people living with a diagnosis of diabetes in the UK, and 90% of those have Type 2.
And there are almost 1 million more people living with Type 2 diabetes who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed, bringing the total to 4.7 million.
By 2030, it’s predicted this number will rise to 5.5 million, bringing into stark relief the need for systematic, regular and thorough eye tests for company employees, not least because they provide effective screening for potentially life-threatening medical conditions – like diabetes.

Research carried out by VSP Vision Care UK shows that in carrying out eye screening of company employees, VSP optometrists were first to spot symptoms of early onset diabetes some 34% of the time – and up to seven years before any other check.

VSP Vision Care UK is the British arm of giant US-based eye health specialist VSP Global, a not-for-profit vision benefits and services company with almost 90 million members worldwide.

Every year the NHS spends around £14 billion a year on treating diabetes and its complications. This figure does not reflect the cost of absence, reduced productivity and other costs such as healthcare management for employers.

Jeremy Chadwick, Managing Director, EMEA at VSP Vision Care, said the research results underlined the vital importance of offering employer-led, regular eye screening and examinations for all employees.

“Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of a working age in the UK, yet the vast majority of workers are not eligible for help from the NHS for the costs of vision care.

“It is initially hard to detect and so can progress unnoticed, and may only be discovered in a thorough eye screening. Diabetes can also increase the risk of glaucoma and other eye conditions.

“That is why it is so important that employer-led eyecare programmes reach all employees. Thorough, regular examinations support early diagnosis of diabetes and other conditions, helping make earlier treatment possible and driving better outcomes for employees and employer alike.

“The estimated cost to British businesses of absenteeism due to diabetes runs to around £8.4 billion pounds a year. So, early detection and treatment can go some way to helping bring down that huge cost,” he said.

According to the Vision Council, poor vision results in 32 times more lost productivity than absenteeism, so it is in the best interests of both employers and employees that regular eye health screening takes place. Studies have shown that receiving glasses increases productivity by around 35%.

The right vision cover can improve employee wellness and productivity, while at the same time meeting Health and Safety Executive requirements in providing employees with access to the latest screening and eye health monitoring.

Typical employee vision plans can be quickly self-funding in terms of reducing health care costs and improving productivity due to the very high return on investment on complete eyecare programmes.

A five year independent study by Human Capital Management Services identified a 145% return on investment on all VSP vision plans. At the same time, another study showed that companies which targeted three major modifiable risk factors, including diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, achieved average savings of £420 per employee per year in terms of health care costs and productivity improvements.