A nationwide CET roadshow was launched 14th May to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by patients who are diagnosed with irreversible sight loss.
Entrepreneur Dan Williams may be severely sight impaired, but he’s totally focused on improving the skills of Britain’s optometrists and dispensing opticians to help the 2 Million or so patients that are living with sight loss, a number that is expected to double over the next 30 years.
Dan has teamed up with dispensing opticians Jayshree Vasani and Peter Black to deliver “Seeing beyond the eyes” a 6-point CET event comprised of two discussion workshops, one “an introduction to visual impairment”, the other looking at “saving sight and supporting sight loss”.
Rocket science this is not, however delegates learned a lot. In a sometimes moving discussion it was demonstrated how with very little effort opticians can make a tremendous difference in the lives of patients who have received the devastating news that they have irreversible sight loss and don’t know where to turn too.
The key take home message was that patients need emotional and practical support immediately on becoming visually impaired and cannot wait to be certified by an ophthalmologist. For that reason, depending on availability, delegates were urged to refer patients to their local sight loss charity, Rehabilitation Officer for the Visually Impaired (ROVI), or Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) at the same time as being referred to ophthalmology to avoid any delays in support which could for example lead to them losing their job unnecessarily.
Opticians tend in this situation to think about low vision aids or magnifiers, and although they may be important, often the first step is adaptation of the home, mobility, emotional support utilisation of modern technology and simple inexpensive gadgets to help with daily living.
The point was well made that a patient’s local garden centre is likely to have a wider selection of magnifiers than their optician, and that low vision services are the least commissioned of all the enhanced optical services negotiated by Local Optical Committees.
Daniel Williams said “I am pleased to launch our UK wide roadshow to empower Optoms and Opticians to see beyond the eyes, I have heard from many sight loss professionals that they don’t get many referrals from Optoms and DO’s, however if these professionals are not aware of services sight loss organisations provide then it is inevitable that they won’t refer, I am on a mission to raise the profile of low vision amongst the optical community and ensure no patient leaves without a referral for support”
Watch our Seeing Beyond the Eyes Launch video:
Sadly, patients who don’t get the support they need are at greatly increased risk of mental illness, depression and even death. Occasionally opticians save a life through diagnosis of a brain tumour or other condition. Perhaps they could save more lives by ensuring people with sight loss receive the support they deserve and are not driven to suicide, which is tragically a real issue.
Darren Paddick, RNIB, Eye Clinic Liaison Officer ECLO said “As an ECLO I felt it was very important to support this course, as in many cases a routine visit to an optician can lead to the start of a patient’s sight loss journey. Therefore, it was of paramount importance that optometrists and dispensing opticians were made aware of the ECLO service. I was also curious to see how engaging and detailed the course would be, and I was not disappointed. The reaction from the delegates when they heard what support was out there in the form of an ECLO was worth attending alone!”
One delegate who attended, Peter Sunderland, Optometrist and Owner of FRAMED Opticians said “I found it really good actually. It was much more enjoyable than the usual run of the mill CET lectures. I think where it won was that inside of all is us, I believe that we had the clinical skills, an knowledge that LV patients need us to have, and actually, speaking for myself, the majority of the Social and care side I knew also, however that has a tendency to be put on a back burner in practice. It’s good to have it brought to the front again.”
“I have been amazed with all of the positive feedback from Optometrists and Opticians and how they are leaving the course and making positive changes, whether that be making their practice design more inclusive, referring patients with low vision to support services or displaying leaflets of sight loss organisations. It is definitely a step in the right direction. One Sight Loss Advisor has tried engaging with local Opticians who were 299 yards away from the local sigh loss association but hadn’t been able to engage, however with the course it has now brought the two together and building upon the relationship. This just proves why such a project is so important” Daniel went on say “I feel like I am the Polyfilla bringing the sight loss organisations and optical sector together for the good of patients”
This is a national project and if you would like to book please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/visualise-training-and-consultancy-and-orbita-black-7994577028
Listen to our Seeing Beyond the Eyes podcast produced by Tom Walker: