Edinburgh campaigners shortlisted for RNIB See Differently Award

Post date: 
Thursday, 3 March 2022

The RNIB See Differently Awards, alongside headline sponsor Amazon Alexa, recognise and celebrate outstanding work to support people with sight loss.

A group of people from Edinburgh have been shortlisted for an RNIB See Differently Award in recognition of their campaigning work to keep eye care services for blind and partially sighted people in their area.  

Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion (KEEP) has been shortlisted in the Team of the Year category. This award seeks to recognise a team that has made a significant contribution to improving the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted.

The group was formed following news in late 2020 that the replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh, the main eye clinic serving the south-east of Scotland, would not go ahead as planned. The provision would instead be moved to the site of St John's Hospital in Livingston, some 15 miles away from the current Eye Pavilion.  

Chaired by Sylvia Paton from Corstophine in Edinburgh, all members of KEEP are blind or partially sighted.

Sylvia, who has sight loss and attends the Eye Pavilion, was asked to comment on the announcement by a local journalist. She did so, outlining her objections which included poor transport links and a site that would be extremely difficult for blind and partially sighted people to navigate. Sylvia was also worried that losing the Eye Pavilion, which is a teaching hospital, would set scientific research and teaching back.

After the interview, a number of people reached out to Sylvia.  She said they told her: “We’ve all sat back for long enough.” Those conversations led to the establishment of the Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion (KEEP) campaign group.

After seeking advice and support from RNIB, KEEP began a campaign of letter writing. They wrote multiple letters to key decision makers, including members of the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian Board Members. Their campaign has led to the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian agreeing that a new eye hospital in Edinburgh should be operational within five years.

There are now eight blind and partially sighted members of KEEP and the group meets at least once a month. Members join online or over the phone and all research, outcomes and other decisions are shared electronically so they are accessible to everyone.

Commenting on being shortlisted, Sylvia said: “I am so pleased the KEEP team has been shortlisted for this awards scheme and been recognised for the work they have done.  Every member has their own skills, strengths and experiences, helping the team work together with the one objective to KEEP and improve eye care services in Edinburgh.  

"This recognition will lend itself to strengthen the work we do. It will help us to keep our campaign in the public eye and encourage us to keep the momentum going. It is so important to keep the new hospital in Edinburgh, keeping all eyecare services in one place, ensuring ease of access for patients from up and down the East of Scotland, as well as preserving the teaching of future generations of opthalmic specialists and allowing research programmes to continue their important work, providing new and improved treatments going forward.

"While there is still a way to go before the hospital is up and running, the recognition for the work, time and effort that the KEEP team has put in, and of the significant goals we have already achieved, is very much appreciated. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian until the ultimate aims and goals are completely fulfilled.”

About the RNIB See Differently Awards

The RNIB See Differently Awards will recognise and celebrate outstanding work to support people with sight loss. They aim to highlight the contributions being made to break down barriers and improve the world for people with sight loss. 

RNIB CEO Matt Stringer said: “The RNIB See Differently Awards celebrate people who are dedicated to making the world a better place for blind and partially sighted people. Our shortlisted National Finalists are all brilliant and we wish them the best of luck.”

The awards will recognise exceptional individuals and teams across seven categories: Campaigner of the Year, Community Contributor of the Year, Best Social Media Impact of the Year, Team of the Year, Employer of the Year and Volunteer of the Year and the Design for Everyone Award.

The award winners will be announced at a ceremony which will take place on 29 March 2022.