This study confirms that ECLOs play a very important role in eye clinics. They can relieve pressure on clinical staff and ensure that patients receive practical and emotional support when they are diagnosed with sight loss
Research by the University of South Wales (USW) has shown that hospital eye clinics benefit from the presence of Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs).
The study ‘the impact of Eye Clinic Liaison Officers: a qualitative study in UK ophthalmology clinics’ - published in the BMJ Open - was led by Professor Mark Llewellyn of USW and funded by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
Aiming to explore the impact of ECLOs, it looked at what they add to the processes, functions and quality of ophthalmology clinics through the experiences of ophthalmology staff in the UK.
It found that ECLOs who had a presence in hospital ophthalmology clinics were seen as valuable in streamlining processes within the clinic, particularly in relation to the CVI (Certificate of Visual Impairment) process and providing continuity of care for patients when they were discharged from medical treatment. It also showed that ECLOs optimise efficiency within clinics and improve their effectiveness.
RNIB believes that no one should have to face sight loss alone. ECLOs are an important part of RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service, which provides practical advice and emotional support over the phone, as well as face to face in eye clinics, for anyone affected by sight loss.
Statistics from January 2019 show that 43% of the top 150 NHS Trusts in England have no trained ECLO in place. In hospitals where there are ECLOs, each one provides support to at least 600 patients, plus 200 relatives, each year.
Carolyn Chamberlain, Head of Eye Clinic Support Services at RNIB, said: “In England ophthalmology is now the largest outpatient speciality by appointment numbers, overtaking trauma and orthopaedics, and continues to be the second largest speciality across the rest of the UK. In 2017/18, there were 8.5 million eye clinic appointments.
“This study confirms that ECLOs play a very important role in eye clinics. They can relieve pressure on clinical staff and ensure that patients receive practical and emotional support when they are diagnosed with sight loss.
“It can be an overwhelming experience being told you are going to lose your sight. That feeling is compounded if people have to deal with it alone. RNIB is working to ensure that patients get the emotional and practical support they need, when they need it.”
Prof Llewellyn said: “ECLOs are an important and trusted part of the team within ophthalmology outpatients departments. They provide expertise, capacity and empathy with patients who are experiencing sight loss.
“Our study demonstrated that they offer a role which is difficult for others to perform, and which is universally valued by their healthcare colleagues.”
This is the first study to qualitatively capture the impact of ECLOs in ophthalmology clinics by gathering the views of various health and social care professionals across the UK.
To view the full article, go to https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/3/e023385.full