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RNIB announces pilot project with Primary Eyecare Services to provide extra patient support in the North West

RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) and Primary Eyecare Services are joining forces on a new venture to establish a direct for optometrists in North-West England to refer patients to sight loss support.

An image of a woman having her eyes tested.

According to RNIB data, there were almost a quarter of a million people (243,000) in the North West estimated to be living with sight loss in 2022. The need for support will continue to grow with that figure estimated to increase to 287,000 people by 2032.

This new integrated approach will enable patients to directly access not only RNIB’s range of support services, but also a range of other experts in their fields via introductions co-ordinated by the charity.

Patients will be able to get answers to questions relating to non-medical concerns associated with vision changes, such as practical advice, emotional support, financial guidance and general signposting to assistive technology. There will also be a new ‘waiting well’ team to assist people who have been diagnosed with an eye condition but who have yet to receive a follow up appointment date.

The pilot forms part of RNIB’s recently launched UK-wide Eye Care Support Pathway which aims to ensure patients are supported at every stage of their eye care journey.

All too often, access to local support services can be difficult to navigate for the referring practitioner and tends to differ by area. RNIB ‘s Sight Loss Advice Service offers a single point of access to streamline the process -so that patients get the support they need faster and more conveniently- whether via the charity’s own resources or by being routed to the most appropriate local agency.

Rob Cooper, RNIB’s NHS Engagement Lead said the collaborative pilot had enabled the two organisations to pool their resources to significantly improve patient experience:

“It is very exciting to be joining forces with Primary Eyecare to champion such an innovative and holistic approach to eye care. Via the seamless integration of our support services with existing NHS treatment pathways, we aim to hugely enhance many different aspects of the lives of patients dealing with eye conditions and sight loss,” he said.

Wendy Craven, one of Primary Eyecare’s Lead Clinical Directors, said: “The partnership between RNIB and Primary Eyecare signifies a shared commitment to addressing the challenges faced by individuals with sight loss and ensuring they receive the multi-faceted help they need.”

Reinforcing Primary Eyecare’s commitment to patient-focused values, CEO Dharmesh Patel added: “By establishing a direct referral route, optometrists in the north-west region will have a streamlined process to refer their patients seamlessly to RNIB’s services and, under the charity’s guidance, to other sources of non-clinical expertise and guidance.”