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Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 00:17 GMT 01:17 UK
Eye clinics 'offer poor support'
Some clinics are unsatisfactory, say patients
Partially-sighted or blind patients are often given inadequate support and information from NHS eye clinics, says a leading charity.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind wants support workers to be employed in every clinic to advise patients, most of whom are elderly.

Its own survey of 200 people who regularly attend eye clinics across the UK suggests that many leave the clinic either distressed or confused about their treatment.

I always felt fobbed off and the people at the clinic never bothered to explain things to me properly

Joan Austin, patient
More than 70% said they wanted someone to talk to about their feelings and worries - but only 19% had been offered this.

Sheena McBride, RNIB's Early Support and Intervention Officer, said: "It's disturbing to find that the human needs of blind and partially-sighted people are being overlooked.

"We hear a lot about patient advocacy and putting patient needs at the heart of health services but the reality in eye clinics is that those needs are just not being understood."

The survey found that problems emerged before the patients even made it to hospital - the vast majority received an appointment letter written in normal, small type.

'Vulnerable and scared'

While most were subsequently told the name of their eye condition, only two out of five were given information about what it meant and its potential future impact on lifestyle.

Joan Austin, 55, lost her sight gradually - and regularly experienced delays and confusion at eye clinics, she claimed.

"The small amount of information you are given leaves you feeling very vulnerable and scared.

"I always felt fobbed off and the people at the clinic never bothered to explain things to me properly.

"I desperately wanted the chance to talk, ask questions and get support in coming to terms with my future. There was no-one in the clinic who helped me like that."

The RNIB wants clinic staff to be given more training to provide more information for blind and partially sighted patients.

It is also calling for more intervention from managers to set higher standards for the clinics.

The majority of patients, while questioning the lack of support, were generally happy with the standard of treatment given at the clinics.

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