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New welcoming space for children with a vision impairment opens at Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Two adult women and a child wearing glasses sit at a small wooden table in a brightly decorated room.

Parent Sukhi McDonald and her daughter Remi meeting with ECLO Talia Treen.

Children who have been diagnosed with a vision impairment are benefitting from a brand new welcoming space where they and their families can find practical and emotional support in comfort.

It’s thanks to Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity which has funded the colourful makeover of the meeting room where the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) specialist Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO) meets children and families.

ECLO Talia Treen has been offering practical and emotional support to children and their families after referral from the hospital’s eye clinic for 11 months. She helps them use vital technology such as smart phone apps and magnifiers, access education materials, and get help with sight loss registration and benefits.

Parent Sukhi McDonald recently had a number of appointments with Talia with her seven-year-old daughter Remi who has nystagmus and Aniridia (enlarged pupils) and cataracts.

She said: “Remi loved the new room. She was able to sit and colour in while I was talking to Talia. It’s so important to have a welcoming dedicated space because talking about sight loss can be very emotional.

“Children don’t always want to be out of school at medical appointments so it’s great that it’s a comfortable space.”

Sukhi said the ECLO service has helped her deal with Remi’s sight loss: “The consultants are brilliant but then you go home and you get a report with lots of long words and terminology.

“Talia takes the time to listen to you and she has all eyes on you. It’s about you and your child. She spoke to us in depth about different opportunities and things we can tap in to; always reassuring, she really truly gets it.”

Talia, who has an eye condition herself, said of the new room: “I love it. It’s so important to have a dedicated area where you can have those important confidential conversations with families in privacy and It’s knowing you have that calming and welcoming environment and enough space where children can play while their parents are talking.”

She added: “My time isn’t limited. I can sit and speak to someone for an hour or more if needs be. Consultants have tight deadlines and clinics to run. Its vital people can have that extra point of contact.”

Parent Sukhi McDonald with her daughter Remi.

Rachel Setchell, RNIB’s ECLO Service Manager, said: “It is an absolute privilege for RNIB to be able to work with the Birmingham Children’s Hospital and support their patients and families through their sight loss journey with Talia. The support of the staff and the hospital charity to allow the ECLO to not only have a room but be able to make it a welcome area for children and their parents is fantastic and I have no doubt it aids the conversations that take place.”

The new room is equipped with a colourful mural, comfortable furniture, a height-rising desk for wheelchairs, an activity table for children with scented felt-tips and play equipment such as Duplo.

Sally Painter, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, added: We are so lucky that Talia has come to join us at the Children's Hospital. Before she came to join our team, we would have to break bad news about sight loss and send families home with only a leaflet and a telephone number. Now, we can ask Talia to meet with families as they leave our clinic room. She can bring them to this calm, welcoming, non-clinical space and give them the time and support that they need from the very beginning of their sight loss journey. Without the support of the hospital charity, this room and space would not have been possible.”

Renovation of the room was funded by the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity. The ECLO role was set up in partnership between RNIB and Birmingham Children’s Hospital. A bid is currently with the Midlands. NHS Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (ICB) to secure funding going forward.