Portsmouth launches England’s first eye clinic for people with Down’s syndrome

The University of Portsmouth has launched the first specialist eye clinic for people with Down’s syndrome in England.

The University of Portsmouth Eye Clinic began operating the new service in June, offering specialised treatment and equipment to people with Down’s syndrome and other conditions, to help support those who may struggle with traditional eye tests.

The clinic can use non-verbal tests with pictures instead of letters for those who can’t read, and also stocks specialist glasses frames.

It’s hoped the service will also help patients in the south of England avoid longer distance travel, with the only other specialist centre located in Wales.

Staff are trained to meet the needs of people who have Down’s syndrome and the university says the centre caters for and supports those who may sometimes benefit from extended appointment times in a “quiet non-pressurised environment”. It says that, although people with Down’s syndrome can and do use high-street opticians, the eye clinic wanted to “go further and dedicate more time, specialist equipment and resources”.

The team in Portsmouth were inspired by Dr Margaret Woodhouse’s specialist optical clinic in Cardiff. The clinic treats children with Down’s syndrome from across the UK but can have long waiting lists.

Dr Woodhouse, head of the Down’s Syndrome Vision Research Unit at Cardiff University, researches visual problems in children with the condition.

She told Cardiff University: “My dream is for every UK area to have at least one optometric practice within easy reach of families, so no-one will have to travel to Cardiff for specialist eye care.

“I am very excited about the new clinic in Portsmouth, and proud to be associated with it. I hope that, in turn, other facilities will follow suit.”

Portsmouth Eye Clinic Manager, Daniel Stride, said: “We are passionate about working day in, day out with our community to bring services not otherwise available, and I’m proud of our team’s ability and facilities which enable us to help those who face barriers to getting eye care.

“We want to work alongside high street opticians to ensure we offer a complementary service to those who might otherwise fall through the cracks.”

The clinic offers standard eye tests for everyone, but is also equipped to work with people with complex needs, including children with learning difficulties, autism or cerebral palsy and adults with brain tumours.