Study confirms that Eye Clinic Liaison Officers provide valuable benefits to eye clinics

Post date: 
Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Research published in the BMJ Open has shown that hospital eye clinics benefit from the presence of Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs).

The study ‘the impact of Eye Clinic Liaison Officers: a qualitative study in UK ophthalmology clinics’ was led by Professor Mark Llewellyn of the University of South Wales and funded by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Aiming to explore the impact of ECLOs, the study looked at what ECLOs add to the processes, functions and quality of ophthalmology clinics through the experiences of ophthalmology staff in the UK.

It found that ECLOs who had a presence in hospital ophthalmology clinics were seen as valuable in streamlining processes within the clinic, particularly in relation to the CVI (Certificate of Visual Impairment) process and providing continuity of care for patients when they were discharged from medical treatment. It also showed that ECLOs optimise efficiency within clinics and improve their effectiveness.

RNIB believes that no one should have to face sight loss alone. ECLOs are an important part of RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service, which provides practical advice and emotional support over the phone, as well as face to face in eye clinics, for anyone affected by sight loss.

Current statistics (from January 2019) show that 43 per cent of the top 150 NHS Trusts in England have no trained ECLO in place [1]. In hospitals where there are ECLOs, each one provides support to at least 600 patients, plus 200 relatives, each year [2].

Carolyn Chamberlain, Head of Eye Clinic Support Services at RNIB, said: “In England ophthalmology is now the largest outpatient speciality by appointment numbers, overtaking trauma and orthopaedics, and continues to be the second largest speciality across the rest of the UK. In 2017/18, there were 8.5 million eye clinic appointments [3].

“This study confirms that ECLOs play a very important role in eye clinics. They can relieve pressure on clinical staff and ensure that patients receive practical and emotional support when they are diagnosed with sight loss.

“It can be an overwhelming experience being told you are going to lose your sight. That feeling is compounded if people have to deal with it alone. RNIB is working to ensure that patients get the emotional and practical support they need, when they need it.”

Mark Llewellyn, Professor of Health and Care Policy at the University of South Wales, said: “ECLOs are an important and trusted part of the team within ophthalmology outpatients departments. They provide expertise, capacity and empathy with patients who are experiencing sight loss. Our study demonstrated that they offer a role which is difficult for others to perform, and which is universally valued by their healthcare colleagues.”

This is the first study to qualitatively capture the impact of ECLOs in ophthalmology clinics by gathering the views of various health and social care professionals across the UK.

View the full article: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/3/e023385.full

RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service gives practical and emotional support to anyone with an eye condition, as well as their family and carers. Our Sight Loss Advice Service is easy to use. You can either choose from a face-to-face appointment with one of our hospital-based ECLOs or speak to a sight loss adviser over the phone via our Helpline. If you’d like to talk to a Sight Loss Adviser please call us on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk   

Notes to editors

[1] RNIB (2019), ECLO coverage monitoring, January 2019

[2] RNIB ECLO Management Data, 2017/18

[3] NHS Outpatient Activity Statistics 2017/18

All media enquiries to the RNIB PR team on at [email protected]  or 020 7391 2223. For urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812.

About RNIB

We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.

RNIB. See differently.

Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk