Coping with sight loss: the role of a Eye Clinic Liaison Officer
Coping with the devastating effects of losing your sight can be daunting and incredibly overwhelming. In the UK, 200 people are diagnosed with macular disease every day - a disease that causes loss of central vision.
To help support people at the point of diagnosis of sight loss, we've funded Hannah Keegan's role as an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) as part of our work with RNIB to provide both emotional and practical support. Here, Hannah explains how she's working alongside the NHS to support people with their everyday health.
"I provide an early intervention service by supporting anyone affected by sight loss, be it the person themselves, their family or a carer.
I have worked for RNIB for the past three years but my current role has been funded by Simplyhealth for two years and I cover Andover, Winchester and Basingstoke and I'm predominantly based with in the eye clinics at Winchester and Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospitals.
Often people who come to the eye clinics are not aware of the support that's available which is where my role comes in. I work closely with the consultants who can refer a patient to me. I can support them to better understand their diagnosis and offer guidance on other things they may need help with following sight loss such as housing and benefit support and independent living aids.
So far, 158 people have been supported through the service between its launch in December and the end of May. The patients I see are predominantly older people with conditions such as macular degeneration, but in Basingstoke I have noticed I'm seeing younger people who are needing support with sight loss.
Peer support is incredibly important for people dealing with sight loss and I spent a lot of time getting to know the various support groups and organisations across the region that I signpost people to. In Basingstoke, there is an amazing amount of support groups, including sports and sensory clubs, particularly aimed at younger people too.
I'm currently based within the eye clinic but moving forward I'm looking to raise awareness of my role more widely within the hospitals. I plan to spend more time on wards where people are being treated for diabetes, stroke and brain injuries, which can lead to or have a significant impact on someone's sight. I hope this will open the referral pathway within the hospital and support even more people.
I split my time between the three areas and from the beginning of July I will have a pod in the waiting room at Winchester Hospital which will give me a dedicated space and hopefully make it more accessible for people to engage with the service.
It's also going to be the first ECLO pod in the UK which is a great step forward!