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Eye care support pathway insight report

This report summarises findings from both RNIB research and external data sources. It provides a comprehensive representation of the ‘pain points’ people experience when trying to access services along the eye care journey.

Key findings

  • Demand for eye care is at an all-time high and is increasing. The last decade has seen a rapid increase in hospital attendances for eye care. There were more than eight million eye care outpatient appointments across the UK in 2021/22 – the highest footfall for any specialism. As our population ages, this already high demand is set to increase. The over two million people living with sight loss in the UK today will double to over four million by 2050.
  • While there are variations across the different parts of the UK, people’s experience, understanding and knowledge of the clinical journey they are embarking on can be confusing and complex. Non-clinical support is not consistently embedded end to end across any clinical pathway.
  • For health and social care professionals there can be inconsistent communication within the NHS and between the NHS and social care. Knowledge of the support available can be poor. IT systems are not joined up and patients can become disempowered in their own care waiting for treatment to start, being unclear about what happens next, and knowing which services are available to them.
  • Common issues include lack of information, advice and support early in the clinical pathway. Signposting to support early on – especially emotional support – is crucial. People also want practical and financial support, knowledge of local provision and to connect with other blind and partially sighted people.
  • Sight loss and changes in eye health can have a huge emotional toll. The point of diagnosis is an especially sensitive time, and people want to be treated with empathy. Blind and partially sighted people are more than twice as likely to experience difficulties with unhappiness or depression compared to the UK average, yet only one in five people losing their sight are referred to mental health support.
  • Eye Care Liaison Officers (ECLOs) are hugely beneficial, but they are not universal or sufficiently embedded into all NHS eye services. They make a huge difference during and after diagnosis as they offer an opportunity for people to speak about their condition, explain treatment options and signpost support available.
  • A Certification of Vision Impairment (CVI), and thereafter registration with social services, can act as a route to support. But there are indications that not all people are getting certified when eligible, and there is poor understanding of these processes and low awareness of the benefits among professionals.
  • With the right support, blind and partially sighted people can come to terms with changes in their eye health and live independent and fulfilled lives.