20 May 2014
MP sees the benefits of vision support role
Bristol West MP Stephen Williams visited Bristol Eye Hospital on
Friday to find out about support for patients who are dealing with
Mr Williams met eye clinic liaison officer (ECLO) Laura Kirby,
whose job it is to give practical advice and emotional support to
people who are losing their sight.
Laura explained: "The impact is different for every patient. For
example, some feel a loss of identity when they realise they can't
drive anymore, particularly if their job involves driving.
"Others fear they will lose their independence if they can't get
out and about on their own. Part of my role is to discuss with
patients what their fears are and to try to find ways those can be
Laura added: "I enjoy my role because it gives me the chance to
help patients when they are at their most vulnerable. Often
patients just want someone to talk to. I have the time that
unfortunately clinical staff don't have during appointments, and
can talk them through all sorts of difficulties. Patients can call
me at any time, even if it is months after the diagnosis."
As well as a tour of the Eye Hospital, Mr Williams attended a
focus group where he met consultants, nurses, patients and support
workers, who explained the impact of having an ECLO and the
benefits it offers to patients.
Mr Williams said: "Obviously, losing your sight affects every
aspect of your life, so the role of the ECLO is very much
appreciated by the patients, to be that first port of call for the
information and guidance people will need once they've had their
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is
campaigning for the wider use of ECLOs. Mike Bell, South West
regional campaigns officer for the RNIB said: "Sight loss advisers
offer emotional support and practical advice to people who are
losing their sight. They help people understand their eye condition
and explain how to take treatment that might prevent further sight
loss. Based in eye clinics and hospitals, sight loss advisers are a
vital link to services such as counselling, workplace support and
rehabilitation, so that people can adapt to life with sight loss
while remaining independent.
"More than two thirds of all eye clinics in the South West do
not offer any dedicated support to people who are losing their
sight. That is something that needs to change. It's fantastic
Bristol Eye Hospital has someone to work with organisations like
the RNIB, to be there for people when they need us."
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