Eye care pathways in Northumberland

Eye care pathways Northumberland

Eye care pathways in Northumberland – do they really work and how could they be improved?

In Northumberland, as across England as a whole, growing numbers of people are living with sight loss or impairment. This is likely to increase further as people live longer since a good deal of vision impairment is related to the ageing process. The estimated number of people living with sight loss in Northumberland is 13,500 (4% of the county’s population) which is higher than the national average and this is estimated to rise to 5% of the county’s population by 2032.

Consequently, vision rehabilitation services are considered key to prevention, supporting independence, and reducing demand for health and social care services.

The total estimated indirect cost of sight loss in Northumberland is over £32million. In 2020-2021 people in Northumberland living with sight loss and a wider audience told Vision Northumberland that some people in the county experience unfair barriers to accessing registration and low vision/rehabilitation services, that the eye care pathway in Northumberland was flawed, and that people did not know what services were available to them.

People stressed the importance of:

  • Support close to home rather than travelling to Newcastle
  • Support that focuses on the health and wellbeing impacts of sight loss such as depression, social isolation and loneliness
  • Good support from officers such as Eye Clinic Liaison Officers, low vision specialists and rehabilitation officers
  • Joined up working and effective signposting between services
  • Developing the necessary skills to live with sight loss and maintain independence
  • Access to comprehensive assessments that balance different aspects of a person’s life
  • Health and social care professionals who are compassionate, understand the challenges of sight loss, and have knowledge of visual rehabilitation services and support
  • Accessible information and advice especially in GP services

This report, funded by Healthwatch Northumberland, follows up on that work asking the key questions:

What challenges do people with sight loss in Northumberland experience when accessing registration and low vision/rehabilitation services as outlined in the Care Act 2014?
Does the eye care pathway really work in Northumberland and how could it be improved?

Eye care pathways in Northumberland report

sight loss services Northumberland

Sight loss services project

Understanding the support available for people with sight loss in Northumberland

Contracting organisation: Adapt North East
Contract value: £5,500
Delivery period: March 2022 to June 2022

Healthwatch Northumberland was established in 2013 and is delivered by Adapt (NE) based in Hexham. As defined by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Healthwatch Northumberland is the independent champion for health and social care across the county. Our role is to give a voice to people who use services, encourage, and influence positive change to services and help meet the health and social care needs of the population.

Contract purpose and focus

This project will learn about the experiences of people in Northumberland who, in the last three years, have been issued with a Certificate of Visual Impairment. This could be due to a diagnosed eye condition or resulting from a health condition or incident (diabetes, stroke etc).

The ‘sight loss pathway’ aims to promote independence and autonomy for adults with sight loss to ensure that services are well coordinated across health and social care. The project will map the current eye care pathways and use the Seeing it My Way outcomes to gather people’s experiences before, during and as we come out of the pandemic. It will seek to understand what services have worked well and ideas for improvements.

This will require desk research, questionnaires/interviews with service providers and commissioners and interviews with people who have used services. The project’s key output will be a report describing the service user and where appropriate, carer experience, highlight good practice and make appropriate recommendations for changes or improvements. The report will be public and will be discussed with Northumberland County Council and health service commissioners and providers before publication.

We anticipate the project will use a mixture of structured and semi-structured individual interviews and possibly focus groups if relevant. The minimum number of participants required who have sight loss is ten. It is important that people from across the county and diverse communities can participate and that participation is accessible to people with sight loss.

Given the on-going Covid-19 situation using online, or telephone methods are acceptable ways to gather feedback. Physical meetings are possible if allowed within Covid-19 restrictions and subject to thorough risk assessment.

1. Contract duration and dates                                                                       

Tender issued: 10 February 2022
Submission deadline: 1 March 2022
Notification by: 10 March 2022
Work to commence: by end March 2022
Interim review: by 30 April 2022
Delivery of draft report: by 4 June 2022

2. Outputs

The key output required is a report with anonymised information:

a) Describing the process, findings and drawing on these to make any appropriate recommendations for further action by Healthwatch Northumberland, commissioners and service providers. The report should include an Executive Summary.

b) Two short case studies which represent the key theme(s) from the findings.

3. Conditions for participation

Applications are invited from suitably qualified and experienced individuals or organisations who demonstrate:

a) The ability, capacity, and commitment to meet the delivery timescale.
b) Knowledge or experience of the operation and purpose of sight loss care pathways and services.
c) Understanding of the ways in which patient and carer experience and voice can be used to influence service delivery.
d) Understanding of health and social care provision in Northumberland with a mixture of rural and urban areas, diverse and isolated communities.
e) Ability to work sensitively and appropriately with participants and with due regard to safeguarding for vulnerable individuals.
f) Value for money.

All applications will be assessed against these criteria. All criteria will carry equal weight initially but criteria a) will be used to make a final judgement if necessary.

4. Contract Value
The total contract value is up to £5,500. It is anticipated the work will take 20 days. All contractor costs should be covered in the contract price including travel, subsistence, office and administration costs. Healthwatch Northumberland will agree with the contractor if additional resources are required to ensure the process is accessible to people with sight loss.

5. Procedure for tendering and the submission deadline

In no more than five A4 pages provide:

a) Details of the main contact person for the project, address, phone numbers and e-mail address. If applicable, your website address.
b) Relevant previous experience including your background and, if applicable, the type of organisation you are, including company or charity registration numbers if applicable.
c) Details of the main people who will carry out the work. Due to the nature of the work you will need to be sensitive to the constraints on people’s time, their situations and have a constructive approach to working with service providers.
d) A delivery plan covering what you will do to deliver the outputs and a breakdown of your costs against your proposed activity.
e) A risk assessment including major risks for non-delivery and contingency plans to manage the risks. The risk assessment should also cover risks for Covid-19.
f) A hyperlink to, or attach a document of, one piece of relevant work you have done previously and which you consent to us contacting the contracting organisation, if we choose.

Applications should be sent by email to not later than 9.00am 24 February 2022. All applicants will be notified by 1 March 2022.

6. Payment
The agreed contract price will be paid in two instalments. 50% at commencement and 50% on agreed successful completion.

7. Contract
Adapt (NE) will issue a contract to the successful applicant. This will include a confidentiality clause.

8. Support
The successful applicant will be required to participate in a set-up meeting with Healthwatch Northumberland (costs within contract price) when regularity of contact and support will be agreed. Safeguarding process will also be agreed. At the start of the project Healthwatch Northumberland will agree with the contractor a list of relevant contacts, organisations and networks. Healthwatch Northumberland will introduce the project and the successful applicant to these contacts and to gain data sharing consent.

9. Legal duties
The successful applicant must comply with any legal obligations that may be relevant to the contract such as planning, licensing, employment, safeguarding, data protection, health and safety, insurance, and equality legalisation. The contractor must comply with all relevant Covid-19 safety restrictions in force at the time of the project or imposed during it. The contractor must carry out their own risk assessments for the work and is solely responsible for addressing those risks.

10. Intellectual Property
Adapt (NE) will own the intellectual property on all materials and reports produced.

11. Further information
For further information please contact Derry Nugent, Project Coordinator, Healthwatch Northumberland.

Please email or call 07590 880016.

This opportunity has now closed.


Vision Northumberland drop-in event

Vision Northumberland drop-in event, Cafe @ Burn Lane, Hexham,

Wednesday 31 January 2024 10am – 12pm

  • Do you need the TV turned up high?
  • Can you no longer read your favourite book?
  • Are you missing parts of conversations?
  • Unable to read labels when you go shopping?

Call in to meet the Vision Northumberland team at this free drop-in, and and see how they can assist you with your vision and hearing loss. Find out more about the equipment, support and activities on offer to people living in Northumberland. For more details call Vision Northumberland on 01670 514316.


Living with Sight Loss event

Northumberland VI Forum: Living with Sight Loss

Venue: Cramlington Community Hub, Manor Walks Shopping Centre, Cramlington, NE23 6YB

Are you blind or partially sighted and live in Northumberland?

Do you want to get a broader picture on the support available to you in your area?

Do you have questions or concerns that you would like to raise to care and support representatives and providers in your area?

Come along to Northumberland Sight Loss Council’s upcoming ‘Living with Sight Loss’ VI forum!

Healthwatch Northumberland has commissioned a study to better understand the support available for people living with sight loss in the county and aims to identify where the gaps lie in the support available.

This event will help inform this study and will provide the opportunity for visually impaired people to share their experiences of using eye health and care services. The event will also be a great way for you to find information about your local eye services and what support is available to you.

Speakers will include:

Derry Nugent – Project Coordinator Healthwatch Northumberland

Julie Boyack – Chief Officer, Vision Northumberland (formerly Northumberland County Blind Association)

Northumberland & Tyne & Wear Local Optical Committee

Representatives from Hospital Eye Services

Northumberland Sight Loss Council members

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about the event, please get in touch with Eamonn Dunne by email: or call 07812 981 876.

Book your place 

Glaucoma Patient Support Group

This support group from the International Glaucoma Association is a chance to meet other people living with glaucoma over a cup of tea, and to hear from local and national charities about support services.

Refreshments provided.

 For details please contact: Hannah Morrow on 07854 821 911 or email:



Sightline 01233 64 81 70