Charity partnership enables vital sight loss support service to restart despite Covid

An innovative partnership between two Norfolk charities has enabled the reintroduction of a vital support service for people receiving a sight loss diagnosis, after the Covid pandemic meant it could no longer be delivered in hospital eye clinics.

Norfolk sight loss charity Vision Norfolk has teamed up with hearing loss charity Hear for Norfolk to provide a mobile service parked right outside hospital ophthalmology clinics – and the service was launched last week at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

Vision Norfolk’s Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs) provide an immediate point of support for patients, acting as a bridge between the clinical team within hospital eye clinics and those receiving a sight loss diagnosis. The service aims to ensure the patient understands the information they have been given, providing emotional support, information and advocacy, as well as referrals to local services and peer support groups.

But with the Covid pandemic meaning that only NHS staff are allowed to work within hospital settings, the charity was no longer able to provide the service.

The solution has been a joint initiative between the two sensory support organisations, which has seen Vision Norfolk’s ECLOs working from Hear for Norfolk’s bespoke mobile unit, parked immediately outside eye clinics.

The initiative launched at King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, with the aim of rolling out the initiative across all of the county’s eye clinics.

“Our Eye Clinic Liaison Officers provide a hugely valuable service for people at the point they receive a diagnosis of sight loss,” said Vision Norfolk chief executive Gina Dormer.

“The impact of starting to lose your sight can be massive. It’s not just the practical considerations of how you are going to live your life, but those who receive the news that they are experiencing sight loss also have to deal with their loss of identity.

“Those who have used the service tell us that just knowing there is someone who has a level of understanding is very reassuring. The consultant deals with the medical side, while the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer deals with the wellbeing side. Both are vital if people living with sight loss are to live independent and fulfilled lives.

“Unfortunately Covid meant that we were unable to provide this service for a while – the partnership with Hear for Norfolk means we have been able to restart this vital support.”

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