Navigating the healthcare system

The health care system can be difficult to navigate and you might not know the best person to talk to in order to get the right help. Here you can read about the different roles of the people you’ll encounter, and who can help.

Optician

The optometrist at your local optician’s practice can test sight, prescribe glasses and check for eye disease. Some optometrists use photography or other imaging to detect early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These might include Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scans which create cross-sectional images of the retina. You may be charged for these tests.

If you need to be referred for treatment, under NICE guidelines, your optician should fast-track your referral straight to the hospital. You should not be sent to your GP. This causes unnecessary delay.

Consultant Ophthalmologist

You may see a different person every time you attend the eye clinic; your care however will be overseen by one consultant ophthalmologist. You should have an ophthalmologist who specialises in AMD or retinal conditions to oversee your care.

Make sure you know what their contact details are in case you have any questions regarding your treatment. Their details should be on the paperwork you receive from the hospital.

Ophthalmic Nurse

More often than not, your injections will be administered by specially trained ophthalmic nurses. They are trained to assess and treat a variety of sight loss conditions. They can also aid in the treatment of eye injuries such as a scratched cornea, and eye trauma. They can also give you tips and advice on how to treat any eye pain you have, or help with administrating eye drops.

Booking Clerk/ Receptionist

When you contact the eye clinic, it is very likely you will speak to a booking clerk or a receptionist. Sometimes this person may not comprehend the clinical need for your appointment and may not understand that you need one rapidly. If this is something you experience, you can explain to them or try contacting your consultant or the hospital eye clinic liaison officer (ECLO) instead.

Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO)

Having an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) is a really effective way for eye clinics to help patients. An ECLO works closely with the eye clinic and the staff there and some external services such as the Sensory Team to help support patients with their sight loss.

Quite often, eye clinic staff may be unable to answer questions and provide emotional support to someone who has just been diagnosed. This is where the ECLO can step in and help.

They can also help you with your treatment schedule, when you have an appointment and liaise with the eye clinic to help get an appointment when you need one.

Unfortunately, not every eye clinic has an ECLO. However it is important for you to find out if there is one at your eye clinic, and if so, what are their contact details and working hours.

Rehabilitation Office Visual Impairment (ROVI)

A Rehabilitation Officer Visual Impairment (ROVI) is trained and qualified to work with people who have significant visual impairment. ROVIs can carry out assessments to discuss difficulties or needs, and identify solutions to help you to stay at home and be as independent as possible. They can give advice on leisure activities such as hobbies, games and sports, and help you learn new skills to be able to carry out everyday tasks. They can also assess your eligibility for specialist aids and equipment, as well as signpost you to other services that may be useful.

To get in touch with the ROVI in your area, please contact your local council.

Low Vision Clinics

A low vision clinic is your first port of call for magnifiers. It’s really difficult to buy a magnifier without an assessment. It would be like trying to buy a pair of glasses without seeing an optician. The low vision clinic will assess your vision and work with you to find the best magnifier for you both in terms of strength and type. The clinic will show you how to use the magnifier effectively and give you one for long term loan use on the NHS as well. A referral can be requested via a GP or possibly from an ophthalmologist.

Resource Centres

Your local society for the visually impaired may have a demonstration kitchen or resource centre with a display of useful equipment - such as talking watches, large-print address books and task lights. Larger centres may have high-tech items such as electronic magnifiers, talking scanners, accessible mobile phones and talking microwaves. If it is not possible to visit a resource centre, there are many low vision aid suppliers who sell directly to individuals.

Sensory Team

The sensory team are part of Adult Services. They deal with individuals with a hearing or sight impairment. Individuals can self-refer to them and ask them to attend the home and conduct a needs assessment. The Sensory Team’s remit is to help keep individuals independent in their own homes. They look at aspects such as the lighting and cooking. Depending on the level of need assessed, they may do some of the adaptations free of charge. The correct lighting can help an individual make the best use of their remaining vision, so it may be worth checking if any improvements could be made in this area.

For more information please call our Advice and Information Service on 0300 30 30 11 or email help@macularsociety.org.