Eye Health Care in Wales

Mark Drakeford: As you have already heard, the last backbench debate on this subject to be held in the Chamber called on the Welsh Government to make tackling avoidable sight loss in Wales a public health priority. Those of us who were involved in bringing that motion before the Assembly were very pleased to see the level of support that we gained across the Chamber and from the Government itself. It is also pleasing to see the public health approach that we outlined at that time being endorsed in today’s Government motion. However, I wonder whether the Minister, in her reply, might say a little more about how that approach is to be worked up. In the Health and Social Care Committee, in our inquiry into community pharmacy, we heard evidence that the effectiveness of public health campaigns can vary. At their best, they combine a strong professional commitment with an effective campaign of public communication and engagement. At their weakest, they amount to a few dusty leaflets and an obscurely located poster.

Tackling avoidable sight loss is a matter of persuading people to recognise the problem at its onset, to be confident that there is something that can be done about it, and then to contact the services that already exist, which can make a big difference to people and their future sight. It is an issue of education, information and a whole-population shift in the way we think about the onset and development of sight loss.

In that sense, it is a classic public health problem that needs a classic public health response. I think that the Minister is absolutely right to identify public health programmes as the way to make the real gains that are there to be made. However, those gains depend on having a public health programme that meets that challenge and is of a standard and a calibre that delivers the outcomes that the Minister is looking for. I look forward to hearing just a little more from her on the way in which she hopes those gains can be made.