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New eye specialist role in the city means patients living with sight loss can remain independent

12th March 2019 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in

People with sight loss or deteriorating eyesight leading to blindness are set to have their quality of life transformed thanks to a new specialist role that has been introduced at Leicester’s hospitals.

Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has teamed up with Vista, the city’s leading charity for people with sight loss, to introduce a new role of an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. The ECLO works closely with patients using the existing hospital eye service, to help build their confidence and remain independent.

Previously this extra support service was only available to patients living in Leicestershire and Rutland. The new city service means that patients, who live in Leicester, can now receive the same level of support, in addition to the hospital eye clinic, consultant led services.

The ECLO receives the referral from the patient’s consultant and meets the patient in the outpatient Ophthalmology department. In the majority of cases this happens on the same day. Their role is to talk to patients about their sight loss and the effect it is having on them. They also speak to family and carers with the patient and assess what support they could benefit from.

They provide information and advice so the patient can be registered as blind, so they receive the support they are entitled to. Referrals can also be made back to Vista, for rehabilitation services which build confidence and help patients retain their independence.

Last year, it was estimated that more than 33,000 patients were at risk of sight loss either because of an ongoing eye condition, such as cataracts and glaucoma or a long term health condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. More than 1,400 people are currently registered as blind in the city.

Being diagnosed as going blind or living with sight loss can have a dramatic effect on other areas of a person’s health and wellbeing, especially older patients and people living with long term health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. However, these conditions can also be a cause of sight loss.

The post is being funded by Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as part of the Better Care Together partnership, aimed at improving outcomes for patients, and to deliver care more efficiently.

Dr Sulaxni Nainani, GP at De Montfort Surgery in Leicester and Leicester City CCG lead for Integrated Care, said: “This role has been in place at the hospital since the beginning of the year and already 82 patients have benefitted from receiving support and guidance quicker. The service is particularly beneficial for our elderly and vulnerable patients who can take advantage of a befriending scheme which places them with someone to talk to and help them with day to day chores.

“The Eye Clinic Liaison Officer is also able to refer patients and those who care for them to their GP so they can be registered as a carer and receive extra support such as flexible appointment times. Patients and carers can also receive help to fill out their enhanced summary care record, which contains helpful medical information about you which will help doctors and nurses treat you according to your wishes, should you need emergency care or care outside of the city.”

Sarah Barnett, Eye Clinic Liaison Officer at Vista, said: “This position provides a fantastic opportunity, I’m really excited to be working in this role, supporting our current team at the hospital to deliver the care and provide the support that the patients need.”

Steve Payne, Operations Director for Vista, working with the Better Care Together partnership, said: “Losing your sight can be a terrifying time, not just for the patient but their family and carers too.

“By having this role in place at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, patients can talk about their experience, any carer needs can be identified, an environmental assessment can be done in the patient’s home to ensure where they live is safe and warm which will help them avoid falls and stay well. Patients are also entitled to a technology assessment to see whether items like pendant alarms or hand rails would help them to remain independent in their own home for as long as safely possible.”

For more information about sight loss and what help is available visit http://www.vistablind.org.uk/.
For more information on Better Care Together visit http://www.bettercareleicester.nhs.uk/.

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