Fewer than one-in-five people who are diagnosed with sight loss in the UK are offered emotional support to help them come to terms with their situation, research by the Royal Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has found.
Speaking to delegates at the Scottish Vision Strategy conference in Stirling today (23 March), RNIB head of evidence and service impact, Philippa Simkiss, spoke about the findings of the charity’s ‘My Voice’ research. In the research, findings showed that four-in-10 people with sight loss also did not receive healthcare information in an accessible format they could read.
Ms Simkiss said: “Our 'My Voice' research is a wakeup call to the realities of life as a blind or partially sighted person in the UK today. It shows the stark reality of what losing your sight can mean – that too many people fail to receive practical and emotional support, struggle with continuing isolation, and find it difficult or impossible to make choices around the independent lives they want to live. It's a wakeup call to government and NHS leaders, to all of us, and shows why the Scottish Vision Strategy is so vital.”
The one-day conference aims to gauge the progress that Scotland has made to help eradicate preventable blindness in the country since the launch of the Scottish Vision Strategy in 2008.
The charity believes that the number of Scots who are blind or partially sighted could double over the next two decades and already one in six hospital appointments in some Scottish hospitals are for eye problems.
Also on the agenda for discussion at the conference was the registration system for people with sight loss. While currently people who are certified with a visual impairment can opt to register with their local authority, less than a quarter of those eligible do so. This suggests that many are unaware of the benefits or perceive a stigma in being registered, the charity said.
Ninewells Hospital’s Professor Carrie MacEwen outlined ideas to overhaul the registration system in Scotland to make its aims more transparent. She explained: “The main purpose of registration is to provide support and services to those with low vision and it is important that this assistance is readily available on an equitable basis. A review of the registration process is almost complete which aims to emphasise the importance of registration for those who are visually impaired, refresh the process and promote accurate data collection for future service planning."