New volunteer pilot scheme launches to stop patients facing sight loss alone

Post date: 
Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Photo of patients in a waiting room

RNIB has launched a pilot project utilising the help of volunteers in hospital eye clinics across the north of England to support patients recently diagnosed with sight conditions. 

Under the new Eye Clinic Support Service Volunteering Pilot which will run until September 2018, volunteers are being trained to support Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs) in three hospitals in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. 
A total of eighteen volunteers across the three sites will be based in clinic waiting rooms in order to make patients aware of the ECLO service. The aim of the pilot is to help patients maintain their independence while adapting to living with sight loss.
As well as helping to facilitate referrals into the ECLO service, volunteers will also provide basic information about other RNIB services.
Sally Harvey, Chief Executive of RNIB, said: “We’re extremely excited to launch the Eye Clinic Support Service Volunteering Pilot across three eye clinics.

“We know receiving a diagnosis can be very scary for some patients, especially if they don’t understand the implications of their sight condition on their lives. Our volunteers will be vital in providing much needed information and acting as a gateway for patients to access support from an ECLO.”  

RNIB research has found that one in four newly diagnosed people leave hospital unsure of what condition they have, and are not told about the ECLO service. But a recent survey found that for patients who do receive support from an ECLO, 80 per cent reported having increased emotional wellbeing. 
Nicola Stanley-Dickinson, RNIB’s Volunteer Coordinator and previous ECLO, said: “When some hospital’s eye clinic footfall is in excess of 15,000 patients every 6 months, it’s absolutely imperative RNIB thinks outside the box to make sure no one misses out on emotional and practical support.” 
For one volunteer, Niamh Maguire, a genetics student at the University of Manchester, the pilot has already made a big impact. She said: “I am preparing for a career in healthcare and was looking to get some more experience of working in a hospital. I have learnt so much about eye conditions in my volunteering role and the support available to people with sight loss, as well as meeting lots of new people.”
RNIB will use feedback from the volunteer pilot to inform a roll-out of the scheme nationally in September 2018. 

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