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New support to help people in Shetland come to terms with sight loss

The national sight loss charity RNIB Scotland will provide a life-line service on behalf of NHS Shetland starting this week

Its Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO) service will help people diagnosed with sight loss come to terms with their condition and find their lives again.

"Being told you are going to lose some, or sometimes even all, of your sight can be a devastating diagnosis," says Maeve Lawler, who will provide the service. "People referred to us can be distressed, confused, frightened - often very unsure of what a future with sight loss can hold for them. That's where we can help.

"We offer people the emotional reassurance and practical help they often need after diagnosis. People can experience a whole range of emotions - shock, denial, anger, fear and grief. Just having someone to talk to, and to be confident that things will be all right, is a big thing."

Maeve already works as an ECLO with clinicians and nurses throughout the north and west Highlands, the Western Isles and Orkney Islands. She will take over the work of Hannah Bateson in Shetland who provided the service for several years, establishing it as a key support in people's sight loss journey.

"People deal with sight loss in different ways," says Maeve. "Giving them the space and time to process what is happening, and letting them know they have been heard, is one of the most important things I do as an ECLO. I reassure them that I am there to support them and, if they feel they don’t need that support right now, I let them know they can come back to me when they feel they are ready for it."

Lorna Willis, occupational therapy team leader with NHS Shetland and Shetland Islands Council's Independent Living Centre, said: “It’s great news that the ECLO service is returning to Shetland after the restrictions of the last couple of years. We are delighted that Maeve will be our local ECLO. She will be a great asset to Shetland residents with sight loss, and to health professionals who are providing care in this area.

"Maeve will be taking over from Hannah Bateson. Our thanks go to Hannah for her hard work, but we are pleased that she will still continue to support clients with visual impairments in the community.”

To contact the Eye Care Liaison Officer service in Shetland, contact Maeve Lawler (tel 07525 910 153, email [email protected]).