City Research Online

East London’s Homeless: a retrospective review of an eye clinic for homeless people

D'Ath, P., Keywood, L. J., Styles, E. C. & Wilson, C. M. (2016). East London’s Homeless: a retrospective review of an eye clinic for homeless people. BMC Health Services Research, 16(54), doi: 10.1186/s12913-016-1295-8



There is very little published work on the visual needs of homeless people. This paper is the first study to investigate the visual needs of homeless people in the UK. Although similar work has been done in other countries, this study is unique because the United Kingdom is the only country with a National Health Service which provides free healthcare at the point of access. This study analysed the refractive status of the sample used, determined the demographics of homeless people seeking eye care and established if there is a need for community eye health with access to free spectacle correction in East London.


This retrospective case study analysed the clinical records of 1,141 homeless people using the Vision Care for Homeless People services at one of their clinics in East London. All eye examinations were carried out by qualified optometrists and, where appropriate, spectacles were dispensed to patients. Data captured included age, gender, ethnicity and refractive error. Results were analysed using two-sample t-tests with Excel and Minitab.


Demographics of age, gender and ethnicity are described. Spherical equivalents (SE) were calculated from prescription data available for 841 clinic users. Emmetropia was defined as SE–0.50DS to +1DS, myopia as SE < −0.50DS, and hyperopia as SE > +1DS.

The majority of clinic users were male (79.2 %, n = 923). Approximately 80 % (n = 583) of clinic users were white, 10 % (n = 72) were ‘black’, 4 % (n = 29) ‘Asian’ and the remaining 5.6 % (n = 40) were of ‘mixed ethnicity’ and ‘other’ groups. The mean age of females attending the clinic was significantly lower than that of males (45.9 years, SD = 13.8 vs’ 48.4 years, SD = 11.8) when analysed using a two-sample t-test (t (317) = 2.44, p = 0.02). One third of service users were aged between 50–59 years. Myopia and hyperopia prevalence rates were 37.0 % and 21.0 % respectively. A total of 34.8 % of homeless people were found to have uncorrected refractive error, and required spectacle correction.


This study has identified a high proportion of uncorrected refractive error in this sample and therefore a need for regular eye examinations and provision of refractive correction for homeless people.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © D’Ath et al. 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://​creativecommons.​org/​licenses/​by/​4.​0/​), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://​creativecommons.​org/​publicdomain/​zero/​1.​0/​) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Optometry & Visual Sciences
Text (Licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication) - Published Version
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