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Healthwatch Cumbria highlights concerns over loss of Eye Clinic Liaison Officers in Cumbria

HWC attended Barrow and Districts Blind Society’s annual awareness raising event in October 2016 with an Information stand. Views/concerns were shared with the attending HWC Representative by both members of the public and the Chief Executive of the Society that some services from the health and social care sector are not providing equality of service for those who are visually impaired. Particularly, it was highlighted that there was only one Eye Clinic Liaison Officer provided in Cumbria in the south of the county which would cease at the end of March 2017.

The concerns shared were that people who are visually impaired are not receiving equality of service by the main 4 hospitals in the county by, for example;

  • Not receiving written communication in large print.
  • Not having the right practical and emotional support following diagnosis or treatment at all eye health clinics in hospitals.

Often, patients have difficulty in accessing continued support from the clinics between appointments. The Eye Liaison Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) would be able to offer ongoing support between clinic visits which for most patients are monthly. Those with macular eye health conditions dominate with 50% of patients, mainly those with WMD, needing to visit clinics on a monthly basis. One third of outpatient appointments are for Eye health Clinics.  The role of the ECLO is similar to that of the Macmillan nurse based at the hospitals. This model would appear to fit into the Integrated Community Care model currently being rolled out in Cumbria.

During the work currently undertaken by HWC with the Chair of the Blind Societies it was highlighted to HWC that the role of the ECLO has been recognised as valid by NCUHT/MBHT and features in the Success Regime proposed pathways.

In response to these concerns HWC wrote to the Chief Executives of both Cumbria CCG and North Lancashire CCG, Stephen Childs and Andrew Bennett respectively, to present the above information.   The letter is attached below:

Letter re ECLOs – 14.02.17 – Stephen Childs

The response from Andrew Bennett from North Lancashire CCG acknowledges the benefits of ECLO’s, however Mr Bennett also acknowledges the challenges of budgeting such a service within NHS costs.  However, Mr Bennett recognises the benefit to the services in having the ECLO’s and will write to the Morecambe Bay University Hospital NHS Trust to ensure they consider this service when reviewing the changes they are looking to implement in the near future.  A copy of Mr Bennett’s letter is below:

Response letter from Andrew Bennet Lancs CCG

Mr Childs response also highlights the challenges within North Cumbria University Hospital Trusts to provide such a service, but will share the information with the relevant staff at the Trust.  His response is below:

Response Letter from Stephen Childs CCG