Expert series blog - Being there at the point of diagnosis

23 May 2014

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Stevie Johnson, Eye Clinic Impact Team Manager at RNIB, says that emotional and practical support for people with sight loss is getting the recognition it deserves - but we still have a way to go.

The value of emotional and practical support for people when they are told they are losing their sight has long been known by those providing it, and by those who have received it when they needed it. This is a quote from a 74 year old lady who received the support from an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) after losing the sight in her second eye, 7 years after the loss of the sight in her first when there was no service;

“I’ll be forever grateful to her for my whole life.  Everything comes back to the ECLO - I wish I’d have had her when my eyes went”

However for many that support is simply not available and where it does exist there are threats to continued funding and service provision.

Over the past few years the importance of these services has been recognised across the sector, and also by professional bodies such as the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the Royal College of Nursing. RNIB recently launched the ‘I am here’ campaign helping launch our strategic priority Being There.

The campaign asks local commissioners to continue funding vital eye clinic work that prevents avoidable sight loss and supports blind and partially sighted people. It also promotes our services to newly-diagnosed people who may not know how we can help, and explains to people who may need our help in future that RNIB is here for everyone affected by sight loss, right from the moment of diagnosis. RNIB will be working with partners towards access to practical and emotional support in every eye clinic by the end of this next strategy period in 2019.

This follows the publication of the ‘Hanging by a thread’ report.

Early reach support in eye clinics can take many forms, from provision of a help desk staffed by volunteers, through to the offer of a dedicated and accredited Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, fully integrated within the clinic. No matter what level of early reach provision is in place, the support provided to patients, their families and carers, should be of a consistent and good standard. 

To address this RNIB has produced a quality framework for non-ECLO early reach support services and also separate practice guidance and quality standards for ECLO services delivered by the RNIB Group. These will be available soon on this website.

But we still have a long way to go until we have achieved our goal.  For people to get access to these services across the UK, we will continue our work with funders, commissioners, organisations and professional bodies to ensure they are recognised as a vital part of eye care and that the services are funded in a way that is sustainable.

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