Landmark anniversary for life-changing service to help Fifers with sight loss

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A life-changing service, run in partnership between RNIB Scotland, NHS Fife and Kirkcaldy-based Seescape, celebrated a key anniversary this week.

The Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) service in Fife marked five years of helping people diagnosed with sight loss to come to terms with their condition and find their lives again.

The service works with clinicians and nurses at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, and Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline, while sight loss charity, Seescape, offers community support and rehabilitation.

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Wendy Millar, from RNIB Scotland, said: “Imagine being told in a hospital eye clinic you are going to lose some or even all of your sight.

Alex Grzywacz Kalaska ,ECLO, with Dawn Barron and Wendy MillarAlex Grzywacz Kalaska ,ECLO, with Dawn Barron and Wendy Millar
Alex Grzywacz Kalaska ,ECLO, with Dawn Barron and Wendy Millar

“The news can be devastating.

"In Fife, that's where myself and fellow ECLO Alex Grzywacz Kalaska can help.

“We offer people the emotional reassurance and practical help that they often need.

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Marking five years of the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) service in FifeMarking five years of the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) service in Fife
Marking five years of the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) service in Fife

“People can go through a whole range of emotions - shock, denial, anger, fear and grief. Emotional support is a huge factor, just having someone to talk to and to be able to get some confidence that things will be all right."

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The service helps people of all ages although most are older.

It is also helping more and more families of people experiencing sight loss who are quite often at a crisis point and struggling to look after loved ones.

The role it plays hass been praised by consultant ophthalmologists with NHS Fife.

Dr Andrew Blaikie agreed: The ECLO service is invaluable when it comes to helping patients with sudden deterioration of vision.

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“The team can take time with patients that I often don't have, sharing their hard earned experience and compassion to really help patients deal with the new challenges that life with low vision brings."

Wendy and Alex enjoy close working relationships with staff in both hospitals.

"We are very much integrated as members of the ophthalmology team in NHS Fife," said Wendy.

"Most people are referred on to us, but we occasionally visit people in wards to give support during their hospital stay.

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"We also work closely with Seescape, which provides the sensory support on behalf of Fife Council. It offers a great range of services and have a wealth of experience.

“It can help with rehabilitation both with mobility and at home, aids, emotional support and much more."

Seescape’s links with the ECLO service spans a number of years - and the charity described the partnership as “invaluable.”

Lesley Carcary, chief executive officer, said: “It is means of reaching out to visually impaired people who we would otherwise struggle to reach.

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"The team in Fife is knowledgeable and approachable, and we know that patients greatly value the role it plays in supporting them to access support from a number of agencies, including clearly explaining what we can do to help them.”

Dawn Barron from Lochgelly was one of the clients helped by the service.

"My father-in-law was devastated and scared about his sight loss," she said.

"He worried about being forced into residential care. He has Alzheimers and it had also worsened, causing him more anxiety.

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"The ECLO service provided great support. Someone taking an interest in advocating for us meant so much.

“As a relative, being able to voice my concern was so valuable. I can’t speak highly enough about the service.”

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