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Turning vision into reality with new service for patients with sight loss

A new service at North Mid is saving patients with visual impairments and other eye conditions money and worry by offering bespoke navigation through the complexities of sight loss.

The eye clinic liaison officer role, which is run in partnership between NHS trusts and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) started at North Mid in March 2024, and is one of the latest posts of this kind to be established by the RNIB, which has been running the scheme in other hospitals for 30 years.

In his first 100 days of working at North Mid Eye clinic liaison officers (ECLO) James Treadwell has helped 135 patients who have been referred to the Trust’s eye clinic, for treatment related to low vision, severe sight impairment, and other visual conditions. His one-to-one support has helped patients get bespoke advice that will allow them to claim hundreds in tax allowances they are eligible for, as well as get access to technology that will read letters and documents to them. Patients are signposted to local groups that offer peer support to manage the emotional challenges of sight loss.

Head of Orthoptic and Optometry Services at North Mid, as well a Trust inclusion champion, Nabil Uddin described the benefit that James and the ECLO service bring to our patients:

“James has been a hugely valuable addition to the team at North Mid who work with patients affected by sight loss and other eye conditions. ECLOs help patients and their families and carers to manage the impact of their eye conditions, ensuring that they understand the range of schemes and benefits they have access to which can mitigate the effect of their health issues. The North Mid clinical team are experts in clinical care, but ECLOs really add value for patients in bringing into their care experience the expertise about financial benefits, services available from other agencies like social care and carers support, and the connections with people who have experienced what they are going through and can empathise and help them navigate the huge impact their condition can have on their life and wellbeing.”

Speaking about how his role at North Mid helps patients, James said:

“One patient was registered severely sight impaired almost two years ago but didn’t know about the range of benefits, concessions and services that open to her due to her certification. I was able to refer her to a specialist team who are going to run a full benefits check, to ensure she is claiming everything she is entitled to due to her condition. She has also been paying considerably more tax than she needs be on her pension, so an RNIB income tax expert is going to assist her in applying for a Blind Person’s Tax Allowance, which will save her hundreds of pounds a year. These additional incomes are going to help greatly as her care needs are increasing.The patient also mentioned the emotional challenges her sight loss brings, so we have connected her with local groups who offer peer support to help manage with that.  Additionally, her husband is her primary carer and has his own health problems, so we provided her with information about Carers UK, and how they can help from this perspective.She will also be getting support regarding technology that can help read out documents and letters to her, and the RNIB Technology team will guide her step by step with that. As a couple they were full of warm appreciation for all the assistance and information we gave them, and it’s so rewarding to know you’ve helped in practical terms as well as improved someone’s everyday life.”

You can contact our Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, James Treadwell, by emailing: northmid.eclo@nhs.net 

Additional Information

What can an eye clinic liaison officer (ECLO) help with:

Here are some key areas where ECLOs can offer guidance and support:

  • Eye conditions: ECLOs are well-versed in different eye conditions and can provide tailored information and advice to individuals, empowering them to better understand their diagnosis and manage their condition effectively.
  • Welfare benefits: ECLOs can guide individuals through the process, ensuring they access the financial support they are entitled to due to their vision impairment.
  • Employment and training: For individuals living with sight loss while in the workforce, ECLOs offer assistance in exploring options for remaining employed or pursuing re-training opportunities, empowering them to navigate the professional environment with confidence.
  • Mental health and emotional well-being: Coping with sight loss can take a toll on emotional well-being. ECLOs provide a supportive ear and can signpost individuals to relevant mental health services and support groups, fostering a sense of community and understanding.
  • Children’s services and education: Parents of children with vision impairment often face unique challenges. ECLOs provide vital information on children's services, education support, and resources available to support the holistic development of visually impaired children.
  • Voluntary organisations and Support Groups: ECLOs facilitate connections with voluntary organisations and local support groups, fostering a sense of community and providing individuals with access to peer support networks.

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