North Devon optometrist highlights 'ticking timebomb' vision crisis

An optometrist conducting an eye exam

An optometrist conducting an eye exam - Credit: Specsavers

Experts are warning that the impact of the pandemic is a ‘ticking timebomb’ on North Devon people’s eye health, as new data is released. 

Hannow Mahmood, store director at Specsavers Barnstaple, is highlighting the stark findings from a national report which shows there were 85,780 missed appointments at Specsavers stores in Devon and Cornwall. 

The State of the UK’s Eye Health Report 2021, commissioned by Specsavers in collaboration with leading eye health experts and charities, counts not only the additional financial burden now facing society as a result of the pandemic, but also the very real cost to people’s sight. 

The findings are being reflected locally with up-to-date figures showing 4,210 people are living with sight loss in North Devon. It also shows 1,330 have glaucoma, 1,270 have late-stage age-related macular degeneration and 1,430 have cataract. 

Hannow said: “As comprehensive as this report is, we, along with our colleagues and partners across the eye health sector, suspect these early findings are just the tip of the iceberg. 

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“The pandemic meant that eye care services in the UK were withdrawn, reduced or restricted, and despite Specsavers being open for care throughout the pandemic, our stores alongside other high street opticians, saw a drop of almost 25% in eye tests across the sector. 

“This has led to a reduction in referrals and the treatment of serious, sometimes symptomless eye conditions that can lead to irreversible and permanent sight loss if not detected and managed in time. The eye health sector, and the NHS, has a ticking timebomb on its hands.” 

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Yet despite this, many people in and around North Devon are still not making their eye health a priority. 

The report also finds that, UK-wide, almost 3,000 people (2,986) are estimated to have lost their sight due to delayed identification and treatment of eye disease during the pandemic and more than 300,000 (316,000) people have missed referrals for ophthalmology services3. It predicts that there will be a £2.5billion estimated additional economic cost of sight loss and blindness due to the pandemic between 2021 and 20244. 

For more information about the State of the UK’s Eye Health Report visit

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