Next Steps for the UK Vision Strategy

Post date: 
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Fazilet Hadi at the Vision conference 2017

Fazilet Hadi, Deputy CEO at RNIB, has been involved in leading the UK Vision Strategy for the past 10 years. Today, after a decade of helping to align key organisations in the sector to work better together, Fazilet looks back at what’s been achieved, and how the Strategy is changing in order to best meet patient needs thrive in the future. 

“I know that sometimes it’s hard to feel that as a sector we’re making progress, but we are. 
Over the last 10 years, Vision Strategy partners have put a spotlight on eye care across the four UK countries and we've seen some great steps forward. 

We've seen government sign up to the Strategy, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Even in England, where it's much harder to bring about change due to the size and fragmentation of how eye care is delivered, the government has introduced measures to facilitate change. This includes the introduction of a Public Health Indicator on sight loss and we've seen Local Eye Health Network Chairs and Thomas Pocklington Trust working to coordinate joint action on the ground to achieve change in eye care and sight loss services. 

We’ve also seen a fantastic growth in eye clinic support across the UK, with almost full coverage in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and 50 per cent coverage in England. Similarly, two important piece of legislation now recognises the impact of sight loss, firstly, the criteria for applying for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the allowance given to help with everyday life if a person has an illness, disability or mental health condition, and the Care Act in England. 
On a local basis, two example of great collaborative working is the Ask & Tell project which aims to encourage patients to understand more about their treatment and self-advocate for the best possible care - particularly in relation to timely follow-up appointments – this is being piloted in six eye clinics. In addition, over the past few years, local healthcare leaders across Devon have come together to re-design services with shared goals.  
I know it is impossible to directly attribute progress to the Vision Strategy but I have no doubt that being able to present a united front greatly assists us. 
Of course, on the other side of the coin, we’ve seen reductions in services and benefits, as a result of wider political and economic change but we must continue to find opportunities in this difficult environment.
The Need for Change
Ten years ago we shaped an agenda for change to be delivered by the UK Vision Strategy that we could all stand behind. That agenda has stood the test of time and I believe it’s as relevant today as it was 10 years ago.
However, while the aims of the UK Vision Strategy remain the same, we find ourselves in a very different world in 2017 to that of 2007. 
The power of digital communication has grown and that of traditional media declined. Along with this, the drive of people telling their own story and leading their own change has grown. 

The shrinking of the state and public services has gathered pace and the extent to which we as consumers and citizens need to self-advocate and self-manage our treatment has increased. This radically changing world has made it imperative that we reviewed the UK Vision Strategy aims and the ways we influence change.

There were also internal reasons for reviewing the Strategy, we had three bodies working to coordinate efforts: the RNIB UK Vision Strategy Team, VISION 2020 UK and the Thomas Pocklington Trust English Vision Strategy Team; this was confusing and unnecessarily complicated.
The Review took place over the second part of 2016. Its conclusions were that all stakeholders still thought the UK Vision Strategy is relevant and necessary. It is recognised that strong relationships had been built across sector boundaries. However, there was a call for greater simplicity. 
Into the bargain, blind and partially sighted people asked for support and information to be made easier to find and for the general population’s attitudes towards sight loss to be tackled. 
And importantly, it was felt that there had not been enough progress on making eye health a greater priority.
Following the Review, key organisations worked to simplify the Strategy, creating a Vision UK Ambition Statement. Work was also done to create a single body to lead the Strategy effort, Vision UK, and a Chief Executive, Keith Valentine was appointed. 
The Future

Our ten years of collaboration across organisations and professional groups, increasing our understanding of each other and the wider sector has given us a great foundation for taking the Vision Strategy forward.

For me, we must build on the last 10 years with an approach that is fit for 2017. I have been inspired by the way other health conditions have increased their priority along with improved public understanding.
Over the next few months, we need to agree how we take the new Vision UK ambition forward. 
I would suggest three priorities:
  • To continue efforts on the ground to make it simple and easy for people to receive the eye care and sight loss support they need
  • To support existing cross-sector initiatives trying to make a difference such as National Eye Health Week, the case for more funding for AMD research being led by Fight for Sight, Macular Society and Blind Veterans UK, and the proposed study on prevalence, initiated by VISION 2020 UK and other partners
  • To create a movement to improve understanding of eye health and sight loss across society. This would mean involving organisations outside our sector and thousands of eye health champions sharing information and stories relating to eye health and sight loss. 
We have an exciting opportunity to commit to the Vision UK ambition and to find new ways of taking it forward. Through pooling our talent and staying energised and focused, we can make a real difference.”
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