Senior leaders from the NHS, social care and the Third Sector gathered in London to explore new ways to ensure people with eye care needs and sight loss receive vital information, advice, practical and emotional support at every stage of their eye care journey.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Collaborate for Good event brought together leading organisations from across the eye care and sight loss sector to unveil a UK wide Eye Care Support Pathway. The Pathway is a new framework to ensure patients have timely access to information, advice and support throughout their eye care journey.
Taking control of your care
The over-arching ambition for the Eye Care Support Pathway is that from the moment someone realises that “something isn’t quite right” with their sight, through to diagnosis and being able to live confidently – and independently – with their condition, they have access to the information, and support they need. Patients should be able to actively participate and take control of their eye care journey.
With the level of demand placed on NHS practitioners, eye care departments, and with the need for each individual appointment never greater than it is today there is a real need for change. There were more than 8 million outpatient eye care appointments in the UK in 2021/22, the highest footfall for any speciality and RNIB’s research has found people often find it difficult to access eye health and sight loss information, services and support.
Two years in the making
The event provides a great example of the sector collaborating with the NHS, social care, people with lived experience and the Third Sector. More than 20 organisations have already endorsed the Eye Care Support Pathway. Two years of work have led up to the publication of the Pathway – informed by detailed research, the insight of more than 500 people with lived experience and more than 30 bodies who represent professionals and patients across the sector.
RNIB’s Chief Executive Officer Matt Stringer said: “We know that the experience of people with eye care needs and sight loss varies greatly across the UK. It’s not acceptable that anyone, regardless of their condition or where they live, does not get the right help and support at the right time.
“It’s encouraging to see so many partners are joining us for the event to work towards establishing, implementing, and delivering the Eye Care Support Pathway. Today is an important milestone, but only the beginning of the work we need to achieve together, bringing everyone together and moving forward to better support people across their eye care journey.”
Louisa Wickham, National Clinical Director for Eye care for NHS England, said: “Success in transforming the way eye care services are provided to meet the increasing demand on the NHS will require the whole sector to transform its approach to improving patient care. The Eye Care Support pathway puts the person at the centre of their eye care and sight loss journey. When the Eye Care Support Pathway is implemented, we must seize the opportunity to truly transform services, empower patients and improve outcomes.
“I’m grateful to our visually impaired sector charity partners for collaborating in developing and publishing the Eye Care Support Pathway and in bringing people together to embed the framework into services and ensure that every person gets the right support at every stage.”
The next steps will see the VI Charity Sector Partnership working with NHS and social care bodies and those with lived experience to implement the Eye Care Support Pathway and the work will continue until everyone who has a sight loss diagnosis gets the support which is person-centred and timely from the outset and throughout their eye care journey.
For more information about the eye care support pathway, read the full report here.
Organisations which have contributed to the framework
• Association of British Dispensing Opticians
• Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
• Association of Optometrists
• BAME Vision
• British and Irish Orthoptic Society
• Blind Veterans UK
• Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning
• College of Optometrists
• Department of Health and Social Care
• Esme’s Umbrella
• Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians
• Fight for Sight/Vision Foundation
• Glaucoma UK
• Guide Dogs
• Kinneir Dufort
• Local Optical Committee Support Unit
• Macular Society
• NHS England
• Rehabilitation Workers Professional Network
• Retina UK
• Royal College of Nursing
• RCN Ophthalmic Nursing Forum
• Royal College of Ophthalmologists
• Thomas Pocklington Trust
• UK Ophthalmology Alliance