This National Eye Health Week (21-27 September) a national charity is urging eye health professionals to help improve the pathways to vital support for people newly diagnosed with sight loss after 61% of the charity’s beneficiaries said they wished their eye health professional had told them about the life-changing support available.
In a recent survey, Blind Veterans UK’s Veterans and Carers Survey, Blind Veterans UK also found that the majority (84%) of its beneficiaries said they were most likely to consult with the eye clinic at their local hospital about their sight loss, although almost a quarter of respondents struggled with severe sight loss for six years or more before finding out about the support available to them.
In response to the findings, Blind Veterans UK has launched a campaign during National Eye Health Week this week urging eye health professionals to ask patients if they served in the military, and if so, refer them to the charity for support. The charity will be contacting ophthalmologists at eye clinics across the UK this week, raising awareness of the support available. The charity is also advertising its services on pharmacy bags and in eye health publications.
Sarah-Lucie Watson, consultant ophthalmologist and trustee of Blind Veterans UK, said: “The results of the Blind Veterans UK’s Veterans and Carers Survey show just how vital it is for people to be signposted to support organisations, like Blind Veterans UK, at the point of diagnosis.
“Currently, Blind Veterans UK supports 4,000 blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women, although it is estimated that there are tens of thousands veterans who could be eligible, yet they don’t know about the support available to them. We are urging eye health professionals to make sure their patients know about further support available, so that they do not have to battle blindness alone.”
Blind Veterans UK supports all ex-Service personnel with severe sight loss, including those who did National Service, regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight. It could be due to an incident while on active service or simply the result of an accident, illness, eye disease or ageing.
The charity has a UK-wide network of welfare officers and three centres in Llandudno, Brighton and Sheffield, providing rehabilitation and training. It also provides emotional support, equipment to make life easier and social activities, as well as opportunities to learn new skills, such as IT, and to try new hobbies from fishing to photography.
John Cantwell, 67 and from Banbury, has been receiving support from Blind Veterans UK since 2010 after a worker at his hospital eye clinic referred him to the charity. He said: “I’m very, very glad I got in touch with Blind Veterans UK, the back-up and support is just marvellous. I’d encourage any veteran with sight loss to call them, it really is as good as it seems.”
If you are, of know of, a blind or vision impaired ex-Service man or woman, request free, lifelong support by calling 0800 389 7979 or visit www.noonealone.org.uk.