VCHP launches first clinic in Scotland

The charity was joined by Specsavers to celebrate its new clinic at Crisis Skylight, Edinburgh 

Elaine Styles, chair of VCHP, stands between colleagues in front of a table with a red tablecloths and cuts a celebratory cake during the Crisis Skylight launch event

Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP) joined Specsavers and homelessness charity Crisis to celebrate the launch of its first clinic in Scotland this week (Wednesday 26 June).  

VCHP’s first Scottish clinic is located at Crisis Skylight, on Canongate in Edinburgh.  

It will support those experiencing homelessness in Edinburgh and Lothian. 

The launch event saw representatives from VCHP, Crisis and Specsavers join other stakeholders for a tour and a celebratory cake cutting.  

Mark Kennedy, Crisis’s Edinburgh Skylight director, and Specsavers optometrist and clinical performance consultant, Maria McGoldrick, spoke at the event, alongside VCHP chief executive, Hannah Telfer.  

Kennedy emphasised that those experiencing homelessness are more likely than the general population to have problems with their eyesight.  

McGoldrick noted that one in three people who are homeless experience eye health issues.  

Providing them with eye care can help them to maintain their independence, confidence and dignity, she said.  

McGoldrick added that supporting VCHP’s clinics is a core part of Specsavers’ sustainability initiative.  

Bringing wellness services together  

The clinic is funded by Specsavers and is comprised of two rooms on a dedicated ‘Wellness Floor’ at Crisis Skylight.  

It will open its doors in July, with one clinic per week initially, to be held on Mondays.  

The consulting and dispensing rooms are for sole use by VCHP, meaning there will be capacity to increase the number of clinics based on need if required.  

The consulting room houses optical equipment that has been provided by Specsavers.  

Speaking of the need for a new VCHP clinic in Edinburgh specifically, Telfer said: “The expansion into Scotland was a bit of a no-brainer. 

“It’s important for us to broaden our reach. Although Scotland’s General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) regulations are different to those in England, we still feel there’s a need for the care that we will deliver. It will be really interesting for us to learn quite quickly what that looks like, and how different to England it is.”  

Telfer added: “Having met people here tonight, they are so grateful for us bringing the service to Edinburgh.” 

She emphasised the importance of meeting those experiencing homelessness in a location that they are already familiar with.  

Discussing the value of teaming up with other organisations, Telfer said: “All our collaborations are absolutely key. We need Crisis to be supporting and encouraging their members to be spreading the message about access to eye care.”  

She added: “We often find that referral agencies haven’t even considered eye care. So, that education in eye care is really important in getting them to refer into us.”  

Crisis, which has ongoing collaborations with both Specsavers and VCHP, moved into its Canongate building in 2023.  

Other services that will be provided on the Wellness Floor may include podiatry and hairdressing, although details of services that will run alongside the VCHP clinic are yet to be confirmed.  

Edinburgh is VCHP’s 10th clinic, and a continuation of the charity’s aim to expand to 24 clinics within the next five years.  

VCHP hopes to open clinics in Wales and Northern Ireland in the future, alongside other locations in England, Telfer said.  

Lead image: Elaine Styles, chair of VCHP, cuts a celebratory cake during the Crisis Skylight launch event.