NOTTINGHAM, England, January 14 /PRNewswire/ --

- National Study Finds That 6 in 10 (and Two-Thirds of Men) Have Spent Nothing on Eye Health in the Last Year

- Vision Express to Offer a Comprehensive Programme of National Eye Health Initiatives in 2009, Including:

- Partnership With UCL Institute of Ophthalmology to Improve Effectiveness of Front Line Identification of Eye-Related Conditions - Major Education Programme Targeted at Schools to Promote Better Eye Care and More Regular Testing - Completion of GBPMulti-Million Investment in New High-Tech Digital Retinal Scanning Equipment Throughout 300-Strong Vision Express Network

- Proper Eye Care is Essential for the High Definition Age Says Vision Express Ceo

Vision Express, the UK's leading chain of opticians (, today announces the launch of a programme of eye care initiatives for 2009 that will amount to the largest privately-funded examination of UK eye health ever undertaken. The programme is launched in conjunction with the publication of YouGov research commissioned by Vision Express that finds that 60% of a representative sample of the population has spent nothing on eye care in the last 12 months.

The poll also finds that 27% have not had an eye test ( for at least two years and one in 20 have not had an eye test for more than 10 years. More worryingly, nearly one in ten (8%) 18-24 year olds have never had their eyes tested according to the study, the highest incidence across all age bands.

We live in a high-definition age and that means that we must do all we can to support better eye health and better vision, said Bryan Magrath, CEO of Vision Express. Many of us spend more on hair care in a week than they do on eye care in a year. We are determined to raise awareness of the importance of eye health and to offer the most accessible services supported by the latest eye testing technology.

The Vision Express Big Eye Test programme will include:

- A pilot eye health study in partnership with the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the UK's leading eye health research institute, to help answer some key primary health care questions. - A major child-centered education programme targeted at schools to promote better eye care and more regular testing - Free digital retinal scanning for all children up to 16 in tandem with their free NHS examination until the end of February. - Dedicated online resources focused on eye health.

Further initiatives will be announced throughout the year.

The pilot national study in partnership with the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology ( will help establish the importance and appropriateness of optometrists' specialist referral using current technologies such as the Vision Express' recently installed digital retinal scanners (in 300+ locations nationwide representing a GBPmulti-million investment), capable of taking detailed images of the interior of the eye. In early trials 6% of digital retinal scanning examinations at Vision Express resulted in referrals to customers' GPs due to the discovery of anomalies in the images. The team from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology will be headed by eminent ophthalmologist Professor Francesca Cordeiro. Findings from the pilot will form the basis of a more detailed research partnership, to be announced later in the year.

We are pleased to be partnering with Vision Express on this important trial project, said Professor Cordeiro. We firmly believe that Optometrists can play a fundamental and more comprehensive role in front line eye care and we are delighted that Vision Express is leading the way in this important area.

Throughout 2009 as part of the most comprehensive privately-funded investigation into child eye sight, Vision Express will promote the availability of free NHS screenings for children, offer free digital retinal scanning for children up to the age of 16 as part of their NHS examination, and provide online education materials via a website to be launched in the Spring.

Bryan Magrath said: We are delighted to be partnering with the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. New technology will lead to breakthroughs in what we can offer our customers and we hope that the Big Eye Test will remind people of all ages of the importance of regular testing.

About the Institute of Ophthalmology

The mission of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is to develop new treatments for eye disease out of a large and varied foundation of basic research. The Institute works very closely with Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and is part of UCL Biomedicine, one of the largest aggregates of biomedical expertise in the world.

The range of diseases the Institute studies extends from inherited retinal degenerations affecting young children to age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, the most common causes of blindness in the elderly. Currently the Institute has groups investigating every stage of visual process from the mechanics of rods and cones to the brain's interpretation of complex visual scenes. Institute researchers are making progress in understanding the basic mechanisms of blinding disease and investigating new methods of treatment by conventional pharmacology, gene therapy and cellular therapy including stem cells.

About Vision Express

Vision Express is one of Britain's leading chains of opticians, with a national network of more than 300 stores. Built on a passion for the optical profession and a drive for unparalleled customer service, Vision Express opened the first 'one hour' Opticians in 1988 and remains the pioneer of a genuine one-hour service today. Vision Express is part of Europe's largest optical retailing network that includes eye care brands Grand Optical, Solaris and Generale D'Optique.

More information: Hamish Thompson +44(0)7702-684290

More information: Hamish Thompson, +44(0)7702-684290,