Take a look at our guest blog from Eye Clinic Liasion Officer Hilary Butler
This Eye Health Week (19 – 25 September 2016) I would like to remind all eye health professionals about the amazing support ex-service personnel are entitled to with Blind Veterans UK.
I have been working as an ECLO for 10 years, and in that time I have seen hundreds of patients who have been diagnosed with various vision impairment problems. Many are scared, confused and upset. They don’t know how they will cope with the loss of their sight and they can’t begin to imagine a life where they can learn to adapt. Many feel isolated and are sure that they can no longer live independently.
When I first heard about Blind Veterans UK, I found out that anyone who is vision impaired and has previously served in the Armed Forces or done National Service is eligible to receive their free support and advice. Since then, I have made sure to tell all my patients who have previously served in the Armed Forces about Blind Veterans UK and I have been amazed at the transformation they have undergone after being signposted to the charity.
One of these patients is Harry Grundy, an 84-year-old vision impaired veteran who I referred to Blind Veterans UK in 2015. Harry and I appeared in a short film to promote the support the charity has given him; you can watch the film here: https://youtu.be/xBN9lFIHWfg
Once admitted to the charity, patients are allocated support workers who assess their needs and provide practical advice. They then spend an induction week at one of the specialised centres run by Blind Veterans UK where they undergo training and rehabilitation. They can also take part in a wide range of recreational activities. Many blind veterans are given specialised equipment to use at home which helps them to continue with their hobbies, improves their confidence and allows them to live independently. Many patients even take up new activities such as learning IT skills or arts and crafts after undertaking courses at the centres. Patients often describe the support they receive from Blind Veterans UK as life changing.
It is wonderful to see patients regain their confidence, take up old hobbies once more and even learn new skills. I am impressed by the support Blind Veterans UK provides to our patients and am always happy to refer anyone as I know they will be in great hands. My aim as an ECLO is to make sure that people’s world never becomes smaller because of sight loss, and I know that Blind Veterans UK can ensure that happens for people.
Every time I come into contact with a new patient, I make sure to ask them if they have ever served in the Armed Forces or completed National Service. I would urge other ECLOs, ophthalmologists and eye health professionals to do the same. Blind Veterans UK is a national charity and can help any vision impaired ex-service people, no matter how they lost their sight or how long they served for. Many eligible patients do not consider themselves veterans because they only served for a short amount of time, but it is important to emphasise that they are still entitled to the free support the charity offers. It is up to eye health professionals to signpost patients to the charity, as we are responsible for making sure they receive the best care possible and that they are aware of the support that is available to them. In fact, 61% of veterans at the charity said they wished their eye health professional had told them about the life changing support available.
If you someone who is vision impaired and previously served in the Armed Forces, you can refer them to Blind Veterans UK by calling Freephone 0800 389 7979 or visit www.noonealone.org.uk
Together we can help more veterans receive the support they need and deserve.
 Blind Veterans UK’s Veterans and Carers Survey, 2015