Early intervention support in eye clinics

Title: Early intervention support in eye clinics

Author: John Slade; Publisher: RNIB: Year of publication: 2014


Providing emotional and practical support at the right time can help people who are losing their sight to retain their independence and access the support they need.

Experience in the eye clinic is very important. It is here that people will be given their diagnosis and prognosis. People go to the eye clinic for treatment and monitoring, and it is in the eye clinic that some will be told that they have permanently lost their vision and will go through the Certification of Vision Impairment process. People tell us how much they value support at all of these stages.

This report provides a timely overview of early intervention services throughout the UK based on data gathered by Eye Clinic Liaison Officers from the RNIB group of charities.

Those working in the health, social care and voluntary sectors can use this evidence to speak with a unified voice to help improve the experiences of blind and partially sighted people and those at risk of sight loss.

Key findings

Location and type of support

  • We estimate that there are over 400 hospitals in the UK that are providing outpatient ophthalmology appointments.
  • 218 of these (53 per cent) have some form of early intervention support available to service users.
  • There is significant variation between UK countries and regions in the proportion of hospitals with early intervention services.
  • Over half (55 per cent) of support is provided by Eye Clinic Liaison Officers, and a further 12 per cent is being provided by ECLO-type roles.
  • Around half of locations with support in place are staffed by people who have attended RNIB's accredited Eye Clinic Support Studies course.
  • The largest group of organisations managing these services are local societies for the blind. These local charities manage nearly half (49 per cent) of early intervention services in the UK. The largest single organisation managing early intervention services is the RNIB group of charities.

Service users

  • Over 16,000 people were supported by early intervention services provided by the RNIB group of charities in 2012/13.
  • Three-quarters of service users supported by RNIB group ECLOs were aged 65 and over. From data collected in Wales, we can estimate that around one-quarter were aged 85 and over.
  • 96 per cent of service users were from White ethnic groups (White British, White Irish or White Other), with 4 per cent being from any other ethnic group.
  • 71 per cent of service users were blind or partially sighted.
  • 33 per cent were living alone.
  • 43 per cent were recorded as having an additional disability.
  • 18 per cent of service users in Scotland were recorded as having a history of falls.

Service provision

  • The majority (around 80 per cent) of service users were referred to early intervention services via the eye clinic. A further 10 per cent were self-referrals.
  • ECLOs frequently provide information and advice on local and national services, eye conditions, equipment, registration and benefits.
  • The most frequent onward referral was to social services (31 per cent). Other common referrals were for a Low Vision Assessment, other RNIB Group services and to local organisations.
  • Around three-quarters of service users were offered support on the same day as the referral; whilst 15 per cent had to wait longer than a week to be contacted.
  • Over three-quarters of interactions with service users lasted under 30 minutes; whilst 5 per cent were an hour or more.