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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, October to December 2019



Vision UK announces the winners of their new awards at RSM Forward View Annual Conference
Altruistic practices sought for a Christmas spectacle.
Charity celebrates ‘a change in sight’ for thousands of children with learning disabilities and autism
Seeing Beyond the Eyes project wins Vision UK John Thompson Award for Excellence in Services, Support and Care 2019
New picture book will promote better eye health for people with learning disabilities
Report from the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland on their assistance for National Eye Health Week
Read archived charity news from July to September here

Vision UK announces the winners of their new awards at RSM Forward View Annual Conference

October 2019

Vision UK works in collaboration with partners across the eye health and sight loss sector to deliver positive change for blind and partially sighted people. They recently announced the winners for their three new thematic awards and the Astbury Award, at the Forward View Vision and Eye Health Conference held in collaboration with the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) GP with Primary Care Section.

The awards focused on the recognition of work across our key themes:

• Evidence and statistics
• Services, support and care
• Research, cures and treatments

The 5 awards were presented at the after-conference reception by Nigel Clarke, Chair of Vision UK and Michele Acton CEO of the RSM. The awards were sponsored by Mr Nick Astbury the former Chair of VISION 2020 UK and the winner of the inaugural award.

The winners and nominees

The Vision UK Award for Excellence in Evidence and Statistics 2019 had 3 nominees: Professor Irene Stratton, Ms Parul Desai and jointly: Professor Jugnoo Rahi, Ms Lola Solebo, Mrs Phillippa Cumberland.

Professor Jugnoo Rahi, Ms Lola Soleba and Mrs Phillippa Cumberland were awarded a Highly Commended certificate for systematic evidence reviews.

The winner was Irene Stratton, which was awarded for work achieved across her whole career working in diabetic eye disease.

Michelle Acton CEO RSM presenting Irene Stratton with award
Michele Action (left) presenting the award to Irene Stratton

The Vision UK John Thompson Award for Excellence in Services, Support and Care 2019
had 6 nominees: Amanda Hawkins and Dr Mhairi Thurston, Devon in Sight; Henshaws; NHS England Optometry Learning Disability Stakeholder Working Group; Seeing Beyond the Eyes team; and the Starting Point Working Group.

Amanda Hawkins and Dr Mhairi Thurston were awarded a Highly Commended Certificate for the Counselling for Sight Loss Accreditation Course.

The Winner was Daniel Williams, Jayshree Vasani and Peter Black for the Seeing Beyond the Eyes project.

Visioncare for the Homeless Christmas campaignThe Seeing Beyond the Eyes team Gill Perry, Daniel Williams, Jayshree Vasani, Peter Black (right) See full story here

The winner of the Excellence in Research, Cures and Treatments award was Lola Solebo et al. for their project focusing on Intra-ocular lens implantation in children under 2 years with congenital/infantile cataract (IoLu2 study).

The David Burt OBE Award which awards research and projects around the prevention of sight loss had 2 nominees: The Seeing Beyond the Eyes team and Subhash Suthar from International Glaucoma Association (IGA). Read Separate story here

The winner was Subhash Suthar Development Manager at the IGA for his career contributions to eye care and eye health.

Vision UK Astbury Award which recognises excellence in collaboration within the eye health and sight loss sector,

2019 had 7 nominees: NHS England Optometry Learning Disability Stakeholder Working Group; Professor Jugnoo Rahi; Ms Parul Desai; RNIB UK Practice and Development Team; Seeing Beyond the Eyes team; Mr Simon Labbett; and Vision Greater Manchester.

Simon Labbett was awarded a Highly Commended Certificate for promoting the profession of Visual Impairment Rehabilitation.

The winner was Professor Jugnoo Rahi for her work in paediatric ophthalmology and prevention, treatment and alleviation of childhood blindness through collaboration in research and service provision over her whole career.

Matt Broom CEO Vision UK said: “We are delighted by the range and value of the work represented by the nominees and winners of our awards. By celebrating success we can inspire and encourage the great work going on in the eye health and sight loss sector. The Astbury Award is particularly important as the it celebrates the power of collaboration to make change which is key to all the work of Vision UK.”

Altruistic practices sought for a Christmas spectacle.

October 2019

Visioncare for the Homeless Christmas campaign
Altruistic practices are sought by Vision Care for Homeless People which is looking to dramatically increase the number of those in need to gain a sight test and specs this Christmas.

Currently VCHP runs Christmas clinics in conjunction with Crisis, around London, with more than 80 volunteers last December and generous donations from across the optical community.

“We know from our weekly regional clinics that London is not the only place in the UK that needs optometry services at Christmas for the dispossessed. We are urging practices to reach out to their local homeless centres and discuss providing a service in their community, for a truly Christmas Spectacle! This may be within the practice or as a domiciliary service within the refuge centre,” said Elaine Styles, Chair of Vision Care for Homeless People.

“Many practices have domiciliary kits and it could be relatively easy for them to reach a group of people who may never have had an eye examination. We are providing an advice pack, which can be emailed to practices. It will all be on our website,” she added.

Advice packs are available here

Last year Vision Care for Homeless People provided eye tests and glasses, where needed, to some 2,000 patients. 327 attended the Crisis at Christmas opticians’ service, organised in conjunction with Crisis UK.

Charity celebrates ‘a change in sight’ for thousands of children with learning disabilities and autism

October 2019

SeeAbility special schoolsIn celebration of World Sight Day 2019, today October 10th , SeeAbility, the national learning disability, autism and sight loss charity, is releasing a report on its successful campaign for eye care in special schools. The report will be launched in Perseid School in Merton, the school where SeeAbility first began its project in 2013.

Supported by the charity’s campaigning work and the insights provided by the project, NHS England has now committed in its Long Term Plan to rolling out a new national programme of eye care in all special schools in England from 2020.

SeeAbility has been supporting 11 special schools in the UK since 2013, delivering full sight tests, dispensing over 1700 pairs of glasses and supplying clear information on what children can see to parents and teachers. The project is the biggest global study actively reporting on the eye care needs of children with learning disabilities and its major findings - based on delivering over 3500 sight tests, and supporting nearly 1500 children - reveal that up to half of children in special schools will have a problem with their vision.

Gordon Ilett, optometrist and Chairman of SeeAbility said:
“One of the largest unaddressed disabilities in the world today is poor vision and yet it’s often entirely preventable and avoidable. Children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have a sight problem than other children and are one of the highest populations at risk. This report shows how children’s lives can be transformed if they are helped to make the most of their vision with access to a pair of glasses – a simple, modest, 700 year old invention which literally changes lives.”

Around 120,000 children attend special schools in England, including the majority of children with severe learning disabilities or autism. All children in England are entitled to have a free NHS annual eye test. However, children with learning disabilities are often unable to access or cope with standard eye tests provided in high street opticians or in a hospital clinic, with data showing only 1 in 10 have a history of visiting a community optician.

Ray James, NHS Director of Learning Disabilities and Autism, said:
“Giving children with a learning disability better access to the care they need while they’re at school means young people are able to get vital support they need to reach their potential. This important work as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to give young people the care they need – whether that’s for mental ill health, a learning disability or for better sight and hearing – will offer children the best possible start in life.”

SeeAbility’s model of sight testing in special schools is recommended by eye care professional bodies, as it is less stressful for children with learning disabilities and autism, reduces the time they miss from school and incorporates glasses dispensing as well as repairs.

Tina Harvey, Perseid School Head Teacher, said:
“The difference the project has made to our children is absolutely profound - especially for the children who had previously never been tested, and were found to need glasses. Many were living life in a total blur before. Now they are happier, more able to learn, feel less frustrated and have higher self esteem. It’s so exciting to know that all special schools will soon get the same opportunity as us, and I’ll definitely be supporting the NHS and SeeAbility in speaking about the benefits we have seen.”

As well as celebrating its successful campaign, the charity continues its important eye care work and has recently embarked on a three year new project ‘Every Day in Focus’, based in London and the North West, where 7 full time and part time eye care champions will be supporting people with learning disabilities and autism to become eye care aware, raising the uptake of sight tests and reaching more people, supporters and eye care professionals with important messages about eye care. Importantly the project employs people with lived experience.


Lance Campbell is a new London Eye Care Champion and he says:
“As someone who has recently left school, I had no idea how important eye care was. Since becoming an Eye Care Champion, I have learnt that everyone should be having eye tests. As someone with learning disabilities and autism, I am happy that I can now share these messages with other people and make them eye care aware.”

Pictured left to right:
Tina Harvey, Perseid School Head Teacher, Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden and Lisa Donaldson, Head of Eye Health, SeeAbility

Seeing Beyond the Eyes project wins Vision UK John Thompson Award for Excellence in Services, Support and Care 2019

October 2019

Vision UK, the umbrella organisation which leads collaboration with partners across the eye health and sight loss sector recognised the ground-breaking work being done by the Seeing Beyond the Eyes team last night at their joint conference between the RSM GP with Primary Health Care Section, Vision UK and in association with the RSM Ophthalmology Section and Digital Health Section.

Seeing Beyond The team faced stiff competition from 5 other nominees in their category so were delighted when it was announced that they’d been awarded The Vision UK John Thompson Award for Excellence in Services, Support and Care 2019, one of the new thematic awards at this year’s event.

The team’s achievements in bringing the optical and sight loss support sectors together to benefit patients with visual impairments has been impressive since the project’s launch in May 2018. 60 interactive Continuing Education and Training (CET) workshops have been delivered throughout England and Scotland empowering over 4,500 optometrists and dispensing opticians to better support their patients living with sight loss and forge closer links with local and national support services. Feedback from delegates has been excellent and referrals are increasing.

Project lead and founder of Visualise Training and Consultancy Daniel Williams stated “We are delighted to win such a prestigious award but it is vital that we continue our education programme as there is still so much more to be done to ensure patients receive signposting and referrals for support as soon as they get a suspected and life changing diagnosis.

It is estimated that over 50% of sight loss is preventable, but it is still increasing so engagement between the optical and sight loss support sectors is more important than ever to help minimise the financial and emotional impacts for patients. Therefore, we are determined to reach all 21,000 UK optical clinicians but need help from the optical and sight loss sectors in terms of funding, venues and resources to achieve this so please contact me if you can assist.”

Have you downoloaded your Practice free Resource Pack yet? If not click here

New picture book will promote better eye health for people with learning disabilities

October 2019

Adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have serious sight problems than other people, yet research shows that 50% of adults with learning disabilities haven’t had a sight test for at least two years.

Most will need extra support to recognise and report changes in their vision, and also to access the eye care services to which they are entitled. For this reason, publishing charity Beyond Words and disability and sight loss charity SeeAbility, have teamed up to launch a new resource, carefully designed to open up conversations, improve awareness and understanding, and support informed decision-making around eye health.

The wordless story, Looking After My Eyes, raises awareness of the importance of regular eye tests and everyone’s right to good quality eye care that meets their own particular needs. It demonstrates the reasonable adjustments that eye care service providers are legally required to make to ensure their services are accessible.

Looking After My Eyes tells a story completely through pictures which anyone can follow, whether or not they can read words. The pictures follow the journeys of two characters – one who gets her first pair of glasses and a second who undergoes surgery for cataracts. Professional best practice is demonstrated throughout and the characters’ emotional responses to their experiences are central to the story. Supplementary text at the end of the book gives useful background information on eye health and eye care, and signposts other relevant resources.

Over 18 months of research and development, authors Baroness Sheila Hollins (Beyond Words), Stephen Kill (SeeAbility), Scott Watkin BEM (SeeAbility) and Prof. Margaret Woodhouse (Cardiff University) worked together with artist Beth Webb, advisors with learning disabilities, their supporters and other eye care professionals to create the book. Throughout the development process, feedback was sought from over 70 adults with learning disabilities so that their ideas and experiences could be incorporated into the pictures.

The book is printed in a larger landscape format to make it easier to see and can be used to prepare someone before having an eye test, hospital visit or operation. It can also be used to help someone to understand the adaptations that are available for people with sight problems. Eye care professionals will find it an invaluable communication tool during consultations and before treatments.

Baroness Hollins said: “Being able to see is something we may take for granted until we experience sight loss ourselves. Losing one’s sight can have a devastating effect on almost every aspect of our lives. I hope that this book will help to inform and prepare everyone who reads it for if and when their own sight is impaired.”

Scott Watkin BEM, Head of Engagement at SeeAbility said: “No one is too disabled to have a sight test and no one should have to live with vision problems. It took me a long time to find the support I need but this book will help more people with learning disabilities get the right support in time.”

The book was launched at the Beyond Words 30-year anniversary event on 3 September at the House of Lords.

Report from the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland on their assistance for National Eye Health Week

October 2019

RNIB ScotlandThe new V&A Dundee Museum and the Callanish Standing Stones are among four iconic Scottish landmarks to feature in a nationwide campaign to promote healthy eyes.

The landmarks were pictured on a series of specially produced coasters as seen through the eyes of someone with a common sight loss condition. The coasters have been produced by the charity RNIB Scotland to mark National Eye Health Week last week.

The charity distributed these to selected pubs and cafes throughout the country with a message urging everyone to go for regular eye examinations, which are free in Scotland, at local optometrists.

Images on the coasters in the series feature Edinburgh Castle (as seen through age-related macular degeneration), the Callanish Stones in the Western Isles (as seen through diabetic retinopathy) the Dundee Victoria and Albert Museum (as seen through glaucoma) and Buchanan Street in Glasgow (as seen through cataracts).

Cate Vallis, campaigns officer for RNIB Scotland, said: "With many sight loss conditions, damage to vision can be arrested or even reversed if the symptoms are detected early enough. Glaucoma, for example, can usually be successfully treated. That's why it's so very important that people do get their eyes examined every two years."

Both RNIB Scotland and V&A Dundee benefit from the support of the People's Postcode Lottery, which welcomed today's joint-event. "The players of People's Postcode Lottery are pleased to support the fantastic work that both bodies do," a spokesperson said. "But it's especially rewarding when those we help find ways to reinforce each other's messages."

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