Looking back at 2016

Post date: 
Thursday, 15 December 2016

NB Online’s editor, Hannah Adams looks back at the year in the eye health and sight loss sector. 

As we start to wind down towards the end of the year, I have been looking back over the last 12 months and reflecting on what’s happened in the world of eye health and sight loss. If you missed an interesting news story, in-depth feature or blog in NB Online, go back and take a look! 
With staff changes taking place in the team, January was a quiet month at NB Online.
We kicked off the year by asking key professionals in the sector what they thought should be a priority for 2016. Some spoke about the importance of accessible information, while others capacity issues would be the biggest concern for the year. How accurate were their estimations on year on? You decide. 
The UK National Screening Committee suggested changes to the way people are screened for eye conditions relating to diabetes; our resident freelance writer, Radhika Holstrom, investigated accessible gaming for people with vision impairment and we shared a new e-learning tool to help raise awareness about caring for people with sight loss and dementia. There was also a free accredited training course about diabetes to complete.
March was a big month for the eye health and sight loss sector in the media as Carrie MacEwan, President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, took to the BBC One Breakfast couch to warn of the unprecedented demand on Eye Clinics. It was reported there were over 100 million outpatient appointments made in England alone during 2013-14, of which nearly 10 per cent are for eye care.
It was also in this month that the Government made it a legal requirement for all service providers to offer blind and partially sighted people the choice of how they would like to receive information with the Accessible Information Standard; RNIB produced a film to help patients understand more about cataracts and the surgery required to remove them and,  in North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, local Fire and Rescue Service staff began training to spot signs of sight loss when doing home visits.
Moorfields Acuity Chart
In April, a new eye chart was introduced to make identifying the first stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) easier. It was estimated the test could lead to earlier diagnosis for millions of people worldwide.
Meanwhile, the journal, Nature, reported that scientists in China had used stem cells to treat cataracts in babies and young children; we reported on a rare eye condition called Achromatopsia which affects people’s ability to see colours and sensitivity to bright light, and finally, the social media giant, Twitter, introduced new functionality to allow people with sight loss to read a description of photos shared on the platform.  
The most popular blog NB Online posted in 2016 came in May and was written by Mike Bailey who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2003. In his blog, Mike shared how nervous he was about using a symbol cane for the first time, but explained how beneficial he found it when he got over his fear. 
May was also the month for sharing RNIB films. The first film was about the rare condition, Charles Bonnet syndrome. The film showed 82-year-old Bee, who has seen hallucinations of elephants walking down the road outside her house. We also showed RNIB’s film about Posterior Vitreous Detachment, and shared new good practice guidelines for Eye Clinic Liaison Officers and other support staff who work with dementia patients within the eye clinic.
June was a busy month for NB Online. It was in this month that NB Online ran the first ever Vision Pioneer Awards alongside the UK Vision Strategy in London. The awards celebrated the outstanding work of professionals in the eye health and sight loss sectors across the UK.
A clinical trial was launched in the UK to test the IRIS II, a bionic vision system which aimed to help patients who have lost their sight due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. 
Katrina Venerus
Katrina Venerus, Managing Director of Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU), spoke to NB Online about how using the skills of optometrists in high-street opticians could be an 'obvious part of the solution' to alleviate pressures on GPs and in eye clinics.
We also spoke to Josie Tetley, Professor of Nursing, Donna Davenport, Senior Nursing Lecturer and Janet Marsden, Professor of Ophthalmology and Emergency Care at Manchester Metropolitan University, who carried out research into what care home nurses understand about managing resident’s glaucoma. The findings showed care home nurses need more support and education in order to effectively manage resident’s glaucoma.
Finally, in June, Ross Cahill, a specialist Orthoptist at University Hospital Southampton, suggested that one possible answer to how the NHS could manage treating AMD patients more effectively could be by training more Orthopists to deliver treatment.
In July, we heard from Moorfields’ new CEO, David Probert, to find out about his new role and how Moorfields planned to tackle sight loss prevention in the future.
RNIB launched a guide for local authorities to understand what good vision rehabilitation should look like in an effort to standardise the service across the UK and we also shared a webinar about how The Care Act affects blind and partially sighted people.
In August, NB Online highlighted the good work of RNIB’s free Eye Health Helpline service. The service is made up of sight loss professionals whose knowledge includes both common and rare sight conditions.
Eye Health Team
Robin Christopherson, technology enthusiast and Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, wrote us a blog about the power of technology for blind and partially sighted people. And RNIB created three films about diabetes: the diabetic eye screening process, managing diabetes and sight loss and healthy diets.
During this year’s National Eye Health Week 2016, RNIB announced it would be entering into a new partnership with Specsavers for three years. To mark the partnership, a State of the Nation report was published.  
In time for children going back to school in September, NB Online featured a project called ‘Eye Heroes’ which is the UK’s first child-led initiative to raise eye health awareness by educating children to be eye champions in their families and communities.
We also spoke to Professor Elizabeth Wilkinson, President of the Ophthalmology Section at the Royal Society of Medicine, who wrote an insightful blog about the importance of integrating eye tests into diabetes management checks as a whole
Finally, in September, we highlighted the latest device in assistive technology, ‘MyEye’. The company behind the gadget, OrCam, explained how the small camera fits to a normal pair of glasses and is able to turn text to speech and recognise people’s faces.
VISION 2020 UK marked World Sight Day with the rollout of a national project aimed at improving the information given to families at the point of diagnosis of their child’s vision impairment.
Also in October, we heard about the reasons why ophthalmic nurses are left out of national eye health agenda-setting conversations, and what needs to change in order to get more nurse representation in leading agenda-setting conversations
Finally, Radhika Holmström investigated eye conditions that are more prevalent in people with black African heritage and explored what the support options are available in Glasgow for the black and minority ethnic community who have vision impairment.
In November, we shared with you a set of six Top Tip Guides to help people support people with sight loss. Each guide includes 10 top tips that focus on how to identify when someone has sight loss, guiding, communication do’s and don’ts and how to support someone with dementia and sight loss. 
Also in November, we published ‘A day in the life’ of a vision rehab officer feature; Robin Christopherson wrote another technology blog about the mobility options for blind and partially sighted people available on today’s market, we looked at the benefits of driverless cars and also heard from the CEO of SpaMedica, the independent sector provider of NHS ophthalmic services, who perform cataract surgery in under one month of patient referral.
Finally, this month, to finish off the busy year, NB Online shared a film produced by BBC 3 called Things Not To Say To A Blind Person. The film recognises that the general public don’t always understand what it’s like to have a sight condition and aims to give viewers the confidence to approach a blind and partially sighted person and be helpful rather than ignoring them or being abusive.
We also introduced you to the Communiclock which is available on RNIB’s online shop. The Communiclock announces the time and date at the touch of a button. We also told you about Identifi which is an app that empowers blind and partially sighted people to gain more independence in daily tasks. The app allows users to take a photo of virtually any object or piece of text, and a description of the object or text is spoken allowed. 
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