Whilst listening to Gordon Brown give praise for the NHS, and hearing how his sight in one eye was saved by surgeons, I could imagine the whole nation becoming dewy eyed as he spoke.
You have to give it to Gordon Brown, his hypocrisy knows no limits.
He stood on that platform knowing full well that as Chancellor of the Exchequer for ten years, he has put in place spending decisions which may contribute to people becoming blind.
The RNIB reports that the elderly are put off going for eye tests – which are free – because of the fear of having to pay for spectacles, which are not.
Eyes degenerate faster when you are elderly. Diseases such as glaucoma, wet and dry macular degeneration and retinal detachment, are all more common and can be picked up quickly during a sight test.
Untreated, these diseases can cause blindness, some within days.
Those elderly people who cannot afford to buy spectacles, therefore put themselves at risk, rather than have a test.
Why are spectacles so expensive? The government pays the optometrist around £18.50 for an eye test, which takes about 45 minutes.
The government does not pay anything towards the running of an optometrist’s practice or equipment. It costs around £120 per hour to run an optometrist’s practice, therefore the deficit has to be made up by loading the charges onto spectacles.
For the young, and people on benefits, the government provides a voucher towards the cost of the spectacles – this usually covers about 50 per cent of the cost. It is then up to the individual to find the rest of the money – as for one young man I know called Tom, that additional 50 per cent from his benefits was simply not possible.
If not having eye tests wasn’t enough, it is a two year wait for an audiology test for those who are hard of hearing.
Just to add insult to injury, optometrists in Scotland are paid £45.00 per test – if they suspect a glaucoma and need a further examination, they are given an additional £11.00.
Meanwhile, in England optometrists are expected to do the additional work for free, or refer the patient back to the GP, who will then refer them on to an eye clinic, which can take forever.
If Gordon Brown genuinely understands the importance of sight, and if he really knows how difficult it is to manage with restricted vision, you would think he would have some empathy with those who are suffering because they can’t afford to buy the glasses they need.
He stands on that platform talking about the importance and value of having retained his eyesight, whilst people across the country are at risk of becoming blind because of his policies.
How does he sleep at night?