Local people with sight loss urge health and social care staff to "See It Our Way"

Post date: 
Monday, 10 June 2019
Northern Ireland
Piece of the Puzzle Roadshow See it our way Launch

Blind and partially sighted people across Northern Ireland have been instrumental in the development of a new training video and advice card for health and social care staff and volunteers.

Launched at the Public Health Agency’s 10,000 More Voices ‘Piece of the Puzzle’ Roadshows in Omagh, Lisburn, and Belfast, the video and card contain ‘six suggestions that help blind and partially sighted people when using health services’.

Over the past two years members of the Campaigners Active Network, facilitated by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, met with representatives from the Public Health Agency across Northern Ireland to outline their experiences of being a patient with sight loss in various NHS settings - from visits to their GP, to hospital outpatient departments – and how patient experience could be improved.

Ken Carson, from Bangor, outlined the new resource and his personal experiences as a patient with sight loss to healthcare staff and volunteers at one of the Public Health Agency’s recent roadshows in Belfast Castle.

Ken said:Losing sight is the equivalent of going through a grieving process. People need to get the right information at the right time to make the most informed decisions for their future, and for this emotional side of sight loss to be taken into account by health and social care professionals. This card is a great reminder in face to face situations to think of the patient as a person, with differing needs and some simple adjustments to how you would usually communicate with a sighted person can make a great positive difference to their experience with your staff and service.”

Dr Jackie McCall, Project Lead for 10,000 More Voices Eyecare Services, Public Health Agency said: “10,000 More Voices initiative supports the integration of the patient's perspective into service development through a variety of projects.  In 2018 a regional project relating to Eyecare Services highlighted the importance of effective communication with people who are blind or partially sighted.

Over 80% of respondents shared positive experiences and highlighted the importance of effective communication by all staff throughout their journey.  Within some of the patient stories, there were also some negative experiences and it was clear, communication was identified as an area that required improvement.

“RNIB in collaboration with 10,000 More Voices, WHSCT and PHA co-designed a card and training video with practical tips for all staff to adopt when supporting someone who is blind or partially sighted.  By including representatives from RNIB in the design, the card and video integrate the valuable perspective of the patient and ensures the resource is person centred and will improve the patient experience. The Public Health Agency would like to express its gratitude for the contribution of RNIB representatives especially Mr Michael Joyce, who featured in the video.”

The training video will now be uploaded to HSC staff intranet training sites in each local Health Trust, and the cards distributed to remind staff and volunteers to be conscious of how they are communicating with people, particularly if they know they have a condition affecting their sight.

Policy and Campaigns Manager for RNIB Paula Beattie, added: “Currently 53,500 people are living with some degree of sight loss in Northern Ireland. Everyone sees differently. Many people have some useful vision but may welcome help at times, particularly in an unfamiliar place, and when the majority of information available is printed.

In July 2016, the NHS Accessible Information Standard came into force in England. It mandates that all healthcare providers must provide information in a format their patients can read.

RNIB calls for the introduction of such a Standard in Northern Ireland and welcomes the current commitment from all HSC Trusts here to commence a regional pilot project.  People have been waiting too long for this vital issue to be resolved.”  To learn more visit rnib.org.uk/campaignsni