The clear vision of the Lib Dems

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Indy Politics
Simon Hughes yesterday set out his vision for a Liberal Democrat government. Mr Hughes, the party's health spokesman, emphasised the commitment to restoring free eye tests which were abolished in 1989.

He said the number of people registered as partly sighted rose by one- quarter in the four years since free check-ups were scrapped. In parliamentary answers, the Government revealed that there had been a 57 per cent rise in cataract treatment between 1991 and 1995 and a 44 per cent increase for glaucoma.

In a news conference Mr Hughes also claimed that one in two people were more likely to visit a dentist regularly if the check-up was free.

The policies would be funded by putting an extra 5p on a packet of cigarettes, which would also pay for a freeze on prescription charges pending a full review of the system. "It is clear that thousands of people are slipping through the net. If caught early, conditions like glaucoma and cataracts can be prevented or treated, rather than resulting in more expensive treatment and even sight loss later on."

John O'Donnell, assistant clinical director of the Institute of Optometry, said there was no doubt that some people became visually impaired because they were unable to afford eye tests.