The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Royal United Hospital have launched a new service providing emotional and practical support to people newly diagnosed with sight loss.
A new Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) works alongside health professionals to offer support and advice to blind and partially sighted people on a range of areas.
These include independent living, returning to work, benefit entitlements, emotional support, and coping at home.
Heidi Koloska was recruited to the ECLO role at the RUH in June 2019.
Heidi said: “I can offer support to people when they might be feeling at their lowest. If someone arrives in clinic and they are told their sight is getting worse, it’s life-changing news.
“This applies to those with long-standing sight loss or newly diagnosed.
“It’s always a difficult conversation, but the main thing is to be there and offer a safe place to talk about it. Reassuring the patient they are not on their own, and encouraging a referral to a local/national organisation who can offer further emotional and practical support to enable them to remain independent.
“Sometimes I’m the first person a patient will speak to after being told they are losing their sight, so it’s my responsibility to make sure they get the support they need and in a timely manner.
“I like to think of my role as a bridge that links the hospital with the local community.”
Abi Jones, RNIB ECLO Service Manager for the South West, said: “It can be an overwhelming experience being told you are going to lose your sight. That feeling is compounded if people have to deal with it alone.
“ECLOs provide much-needed information, advice and guidance.
“We are extremely pleased to be working with our partners to bring this support and advice to patients attending the RUH.”
RUH Head of Optometry Helen Broadbent said: “A diagnosis of sight loss can be a traumatic experience. The appointment of an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer will make a huge difference to these patients by providing them with essential support, information and advice when they need it most.
“We are delighted that we are now able to offer this service at the RUH, thanks to our partnership with RNIB.”