Nick Sawer

Nick Sawers at the Vision Care for Homeless people reception

A direct link has been found between homelessness and ocular health by a medical student in London.

Nick Sawers, a fourth year medical student at St George’s, Tooting, said 80 per cent of homeless patients at a clinic he volunteered at needed glasses.

He was speaking last week at the House of Lords during a reception organised by Vision Care for Homeless People.

He had started a research project in partnership with VCHP, Crisis and Moorfields Eye Hospital, using statistics gathered at vision clinics run by VCHP at Crisis at Christmas centres.

More than 280 patients were seen at these clinics late last year, with significantly more demand for vision correction.

Sawers said: ‘Visual impairment is around 2 per cent among the general population in London. It is 14 per cent among patients at the Christmas clinics. Pair this with research showing that low vision has a significant impact on low socioeconomic status, long-term health and well-being, you can see the need in this vulnerable group.’

One in five of the patients had ocular pathology and one in 10 were given a medical referral for further ophthalmic investigations, and this was deemed significantly higher than the general population.

‘There is a clear link between ocular health and homelessness. Alongside job skills, accommodation and access to funding, eye care is an important factor in tackling homelessness,’ added Sawers.