Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, is backing a campaign by sight loss charity RNIB to ensure that everyone diagnosed with sight loss gets emotional support to come to terms with their condition.
Gwynne attended the launch of The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) new report ‘Being There When it Matters’, which is calling for every eye department in the UK to have access to a qualified sight loss adviser so that people are properly supported as they adapt to life with reduced or no vision. The current picture is bleak; only 30% of eye departments in the UK have access to a qualified sight loss adviser.
Sight loss advisers offer dedicated practical and emotional support. They can offer advice on everything from remaining in employment, to being more independent around the home and reducing the risk of falls whilst out and about. Recent research has revealed that sight loss advisers create significant financial savings for health and social care budgets with every £1 invested in the service delivering a return of £10.57.
The move comes as a new survey, commissioned by RNIB, reveals that 44% of UK adults said they feared losing their sight more than any other long-term health condition.
Adults in the UK are more afraid of losing their sight than they are of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease or having to use a wheelchair.
More than half of the 2,000 adults surveyed (53%) also said that they believed losing their sight would have a bigger impact on their life than other long-term health conditions, with nine in 10 saying they would lose their independence and eight in 10 concerned they would lose their job.
Andrew Gwynne MP said:
“I think that it is vital that blind and partially sighted people receive quality and timely support to help them to adapt to their sight loss.
“Sight loss can have a profound impact upon a person’s life. Without the right support people can become unnecessarily isolated and can struggle to adapt. I support RNIB’s campaign for every eye department to have access to a sight loss adviser.”
RNIB’s CEO, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE said:
“Every single day 100 people in the UK begin to lose their sight, but even so, many of us can only imagine how devastating it must be to find out it’s happening to us. It is a profound injustice that the majority of people in this situation are not given any specialised support to help them through this extremely traumatic time.
“In less than 40 years, the number of people with sight loss is going to be double what it is now. We are determined to make the government realise that properly qualified sight loss advisers are not only absolutely crucial for patients, but that they make economic sense too.”
RNIB data suggests that just 30% of hospitals with an eye department in the UK offer a sight loss adviser who has completed the RNIB accredited training course. Many sight loss advisers are assigned to more than one hospital, so it does not necessarily follow that 30% of hospitals have their own sight loss adviser. Similarly, it is unlikely that one sight loss adviser will cover all of the eye clinics within the department.