Call for sight loss advisers in every eye department

A report published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People highlights the difference that sight loss advisers can make to an eye department

19 May 2015 by Emily McCormick

Every hospital eye department in the UK should have access to a sight loss adviser, according to the findings of a report published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) today (19 May). 

While research suggests that currently just 30% of hospital eye departments across the UK have access to a qualified eye care liaison officer (ECLO) or sight loss adviser, the charity’s report highlights the difference that they can make in “freeing up clinicians’ time and acting as a bridge between health and social care.”

Sight loss advisers are trained, non-clinical staff who work within eye clinics to provide patients and their families with emotional and practical support. The report also highlighted that one key benefit of having a sight loss adviser is that they have the time to discuss what visually impaired certification means and the benefits that registration can bring to patients.  

Managing director of RNIB engagement, Fazilet Hadi, said: “Nobody should be left to face sight loss alone. Sight loss advisers use their expertise to work with the patient to identify their individual needs and to refer them onto vital support services.
“Sight loss advisers can help to free up clinicians’ time. They contribute enormously to the efficient running of a department and the RNIB’s latest research shows that the service can deliver a welcome financial return to health and social care budgets of £10.57 for every £1 invested.”


The benefits

In the report, eight ophthalmologists share their views and explain the positive benefits they feel that sight loss advisers and ECLOs have brought to patients and staff. 

Martin McKibbin, consultant ophthalmologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, has witnessed the introduction of the sight loss advisory service at two hospitals in Leeds. 

He commented: “Having sight loss advisers take responsibility for processing certificates of visual impairment has saved medical and nursing staff time. It also ensures that a copy reaches adult social care, or if necessary, a qualified teacher of the visually impaired. They take ownership of the process.”

Each year, ophthalmology departments receive the second highest number of patient visits when compared to any other specialty. 

Stating the charity’s ambitions for sight loss advisers in every eye department, Ms Hadi confirmed: “We are calling upon ophthalmologists in all hospitals to explore the need for a sight loss adviser service and to initiate discussions within their eye department.” 

President of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Professor Carrie MacEwen, who drafted the report’s foreword, added: “Sight loss advisers provide a valuable service in the running of any busy eye department and RNIB’s ambition for every eye department in the UK to have access to an adviser will benefit patients at a time when they are most vulnerable.”


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