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?