A blind group has highlighted its surprise about the lack of support services in Yorkshire for those recently diagnosed with sight loss, following a damning report by the RNIB.
Kirklees Visual Impairment Network chairman David Quarmby said that it was a shame that residents in other areas were not receiving adequate help, after the charity revealed that the county’s hospitals offered worse support than in other parts of the country.
This amounted to having sight loss advisers in just over one third (14) of its 35 eye hospitals, in comparison to just over half, 218 out of 400, nationally.
He said that the support provided by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust was ‘vital’ to his members.
According to the report, the trust’s two hospitals are two of the 14 clinics and hospitals in the region that have any support staff available for patients, whilst 21 have no services at all.
David, who has Retinitis Pigmentoas, said: “We are fortunate to have two teams of support staff in Kirklees who can refer people and it seems surprising that so many people don’t have these services because they are so valued.
“They really help people at times of crisis and make sure that they get the right level of help that they need and refer them to groups like ourselves who provide support and assistance as they adapt to living with sight loss.
“More work needs to be done to stop people with sight loss becoming isolated.”
The ‘Hanging by a Thread’ report was released as a warning to urge the NHS and other organisations to continue to offer support services after April 2015, when guaranteed funding ends.
It also highlighted that almost one quarter (23%) left hospital not knowing what eye condition they have, that only eight per cent who lost their sight were offered formal counselling and that eye clinics were full to capacity.
They said that this led to increased risk of depression and a lower sense of wellbeing amongst those with sight loss.
Action for Blind People’s eye clinic liaison officer at HRI, Debra Baverstock, who helped over 300 people last year, said: “To be diagnosed with sight loss can be made even worse if there’s no one to turn to for emotional support and guidance.
“I talk to them about what services are available locally and refer appropriately.”
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