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How RNIB's ECLO service is becoming increasingly vital to hospital eye clinics

As the NHS gears up to celebrate its 75th anniversary, here at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), we’re highlighting the vital role of our Eye Care Liaison Officers (ECLOs) who right now, are supporting thousands of patients with sight loss in NHS eye clinics across the UK.

If you’d like to speak to an ECLO about their role, an RNIB spokesperson or a patient, please get in touch for interviews and images.

ECLO Services

Since 1994, RNIB’s Eye Care Liaison Officers (ECLOs) have become a crucial support service for those attending eye clinics at NHS hospitals and eye clinics across the UK.

They are at the point of need for patients who have been recently diagnosed with an eye condition or experienced trauma, which may lead to a partial or complete loss of sight. At such a vulnerable time, ECLOs provide much-needed emotional support for the patient, their families and carers. On a practical level, an ECLO can help patients access social care services and benefits through the certification process (Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) form).

ECLOs also help with the continuity of care and the running of outpatient clinics, providing additional capacity to the continuing crisis of the overwhelmed hospital eye service (HES). Working alongside ophthalmologists and the eye clinic staff, they enable more patients through the system with sensitivity and care.

Today RNIB employs 126 ECLOs working with patients across 213 sites of 104 hospitals.

The first RNIB ECLO was employed in 1994 at Rotherham Hospital.

By 2007 RNIB employed nine ECLOs on one-year renewable contracts.

In 2017, RNIB staff identified the top 100 eye departments and set a target to see an ECLO service in every single one whether delivered by RNIB, the NHS or a charity partner. Now only 20 of the 100 remain to be filled.

Over the next two years RNIB aims to deploy ECLOs across these remaining hospitals so that by 2025/26, we will have a presence in them all.

In 2022/23 more than 60,000 patients were supported by RNIB ECLOs and ECLOs administered more than 9,000 Certificates of Vision Impairment.

Mark Chapman is an ECLO at Luton and Dunstable Hospital. He said: “I'm not scared of emotions - if someone comes in here and they're angry, scared or emotional, then I’m not fazed by that. Being accepting of how someone feels is important. Patients can have a very similar eye condition; one person is absolutely independent, while others feel utterly destroyed. I try to get patients up to the level where they feel confident to make their own decisions and live independently.”

ECLO patient:

“I felt like she really understood what I needed and made me feel stronger than I was before I spoke to her. It was just what I needed, and I thought the service I got from her was wonderful.”

ECLO Patient’s family member:

“It's been a life-changing support because as a carer for my father, I'm not always informed about what is out there for him, so I found that a great help. I thought it was a very valuable service for both of us and has really helped us in more than one way.”

Notes for Editors:

ECLOs are endorsed by the UK Ophthalmology Alliance (UKOA), NICE Department of Health and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth). A qualified ECLO will attend the Eye Clinic Support Studies Course (delivered by RNIB and City University, London), which is a recognised qualification by the UKOA, and adhere to the RNIB Quality Framework for ECLO Services.

RNIB is the largest single provider of ECLO services in the UK. Whoever the employer, RNIB is the leader in creating professional standards, developing and delivering accredited training and CPD, hosting a professional network (of communication and events), as well as crucially leading the campaign to ensure posts are embedded within eye clinics and co-funded by NHS Trusts.