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​Milton Keynes eye health initiative reveals one in six have never had a sight test

Press Release   •   Sep 22, 2017 12:39 BST

The Vision Van at the Intu Shopping Centre in Milton Keynes

On the second day of its UK-wide tour for National Eye Health Week (18-24 September 2017), Vision Express took its high-tech Vision Van to Milton Keynes offering free eye tests to all - with 83% of those who took advantage confessing they haven’t had the essential health check in over two years* and one in six never having had one.

Milton Keynes residents were given free 30-minute sight tests at the Van which spent the day at the Intu MK Shopping Centre on Tuesday (19 September). The town was selected as a pitstop on the tour, after it was identified as having a high population of people at risk of developing eye health conditions, due to smoking and poor diet.

Over a fifth, 22%, of adults in Milton Keynes are smokers. Plus, a quarter of the local population eats less than two portions of fruits and vegetables per day and has a BMI over 30[1]. Statistics show people who smoke are at least three times more likely to develop sight conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, than non-smokers[2] and those eating a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables could avoid eye problems and some eye conditions that can eventually lead to permanent sight damage.

All appointments available on the Van were snapped up, with two thirds of those tested needing vision correction and just under a fifth (16%) being advised to seek further medical attention with their GP.

One visitor to the van was Angela Simmons from Bermuda. Having neglected her eyes for the past seven years, explaining her last visit to the opticians was in 2010, she was relieved to have a diagnosis on an eye condition which has been causing her persistent problems.

Angela says: “I was offered a free eye exam here in Milton Keynes, which means I have been given a lot of information to go back home with. I told the optometrist that my eyes water a lot and after doing the examination she disclosed that my pores are closed because of my eye liner. This is something I had never thought of before, and she has advised me to make sure I take my eyeliner off at night and to open up my pores by pressing a hot compress against my eye.”

During her examination, a small mole at the back of Angela’s eye was also discovered, “the optometrist said it’s nothing to worry about as it’s flat and been there for a very long time.” Angela continued, “my prescription has also changed.”

Angela also discovered through her eye test that her cholesterol was a slightly higher than It should be, so it was recommended she sees her GP when she get home to Bermuda.

Joining the Milton Keynes leg of the tour was Petra Maxwell from the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). A charity partner of Vision Express’ since 2010, CHECT raises awareness of the rare eye cancer retinoblastoma, while supporting families affected by the condition. Petra explained to Van visitors how to spot retinoblastoma which affects young children, mainly under the age of six. Around 50-60 cases are diagnosed in the UK every year – approximately one child a week.

Retinoblastoma has one of the best cure rates of all the childhood cancers. In the UK, around 98% of children will survive but early diagnosis is essential.

Vision Express CEO, Jonathan Lawson, concludes: “We’re once again taking our Vision Van on the road to help share the message of how important an eye test is in detecting sight defects, eye-related conditions and other health problems.

“By taking the eye test to the people, we can target areas where there is a worsening outlook for eye health. We felt Milton Keynes would be a perfect pitstop on our 2017 Vision Van tour, particularly as we know that nutrition and smoking can impact sight.”

This is the fourth time Vision Express is touring its Vision Van for National Eye Health Week, highlighting the importance of regular eye testing for good sight and general wellbeing, considering the findings that two million people in the UK are living with sight loss, half of which is preventable[3], yet just over half of adults in the UK only visit an optician every five years, with 8% never having had a sight test..[4]

Jonathan concludes: “We know that people fear blindness more than any other sense loss, with one survey finding that 76% of people would rather lose a limb than their sight.[5] And, we’re very aware that affordability is an issue for many, with 37% of people putting off having an eye test due to cost concern[6], so we want to help. That’s why anyone who can’t get to the Van while it’s on tour, can download a free eye test voucher from our website.”

Everyone across the UK can benefit from a free eye test by downloading an online voucher now until 30 September from the Vision Express website: The voucher can be redeemed until 31 October 2017 at any of approximately 400 Vision Express stores across the UK.

To find out more about National Eye Health Week visit: or to find your nearest Vision Express store and make an eye test appointment visit:

[1]Behavioural Data supplied by Experian using statistics published by Health Survey for England, Sport England, ONS, Department of Health, NHS National Services Scotland and the Welsh Government

[2]2007: Arch Ophthalmol, Smoking and the long-term incidence of age-related macular degeneration

[3]Vision Matters

[4]2014: Simplyhealth Quant Survey; Middle aged attitudes to Vision & Eye Tests

[5]2012: Bausch and Lomb. The global eye health barometer

[6]2008: State of the Nations Eyes Study – The Eyecare Trust

About Vision Express

Vision Express is one of the largest optical retailers in the UK and part of GrandVision,the global leader in optical retail operating in more than 40 countries, spanning over 6,500 stores and online.

With almost 400 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Built on a passion for the profession, it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best individual optical care, the right product and great value. Customers can select from a vast range of genuine designer brands and the latest technology lenses, through to complete glasses from £39.

With around 4,500 employees, Vision Express makes a significant difference to the communities it operates within, and the organisations it chooses to support. As part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, Vision Express is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charity Project and include:

  • Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
  • International Glaucoma Association
  • Macular Society
  • Stroke Association
  • Temple Street University Hospital
  • Brake

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