Patients across Ealing who are partially sighted or blind will now have extra support from the NHS with a new Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO) based at Park Royal’s Central Middlesex Hospital.
Russell Gwebu, who himself lost most of his sight in a car crash at 21, will be based at the hospital five days a week.
The ECLO’s come from a partnership between the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and local NHS trusts.
The RNIB says, they act as an important bridge between health and social services and for providing support and wellbeing of patients in eye clinics.
They also get involved in early stages of eye deterioration by helping prevent avoidable sight loss by talking and showing treatment that is available to patients.
Mr Gwebu said of his experience. “After the car accident I couldn’t see anything at all for two to three weeks. My world just stopped, but I soon found out that everyone else’s carried on. When I first heard about the ECLO role, I just thought it was a great idea. Consultation times in eye clinics are limited so having an ECLO at hand to offer practical and emotional support to patients is fantastic.”
Mr Gwebu added: “I saw a patient the other day who was certified with sight loss a year or two ago. He was in his 40s and seemed very confused with everything. But we helped him get a copy of his Certificate of Vision Impairment and put him in touch with an organisation that can help him fill in the DWP forms, so he can begin to get the support he needs.”
Sharita Jhummun, clinical lead for Optometry and Orthoptic Services at Central Middlesex Hospital, said: “The hospital is very happy to welcome Russell. The new ECLO service will help to support the well-being of our new and follow-up patients. The new service is vital to treating patients holistically and is very much needed. Patients have welcomed the bridge between health and social services.”
Karen James, ECLO Service Manager at RNIB, said, “We are so pleased to have the new ECLO service at Central Middlesex. The ECLOs support patients who are often struggling to find their way through a sometimes frightening and often unpredictable and complex sight loss journey. The ECLO has up to date knowledge of local and national service provision and the time to connect with patients to understand and access support to meet their needs. They also help prevent avoidable sight loss, by talking through treatment and helping people to understand their medication if necessary.”
To find out more about ECLOs call RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999 (8am-8pm weekdays and 9am-1pm Saturdays) or click here