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Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs) are vital to supporting patients with sight loss

6 March 2019

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists considers ECLOs as integral to meeting the needs of patients in hospital eye units 

A recent study published in the BMJ1, with support and funding from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), has highlighted the continuing importance of Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLO).

ECLOs work in hospital eye units at the point of need for patients who have been recently diagnosed with an eye condition, which may lead to a partial or complete loss of sight. At such a vulnerable time, ECLOs provide much needed emotional support for the patient, their families and carers. On a practical level, an ECLO can help patients access social care services and benefits through the certification process (Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) form). The paper identifies efficient clinical team communication, trust amongst staff, and knowledge of available community based support as key factors in enabling ECLOs to carry out their function.

The study, which is the first of its kind, explores the role of ECLOs in helping to ensure continuity of care and in the wider running of outpatient clinics. The recent 2018 RCOphth Workforce Censushighlighted capacity issues in the continuing crisis of the overwhelmed hospital eye service (HES). In this current environment ECLOs are able to provide valuable additional capacity. Working alongside ophthalmologists and the eye clinic staff, they enable more patients through the system with sensitivity and care.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists considers ECLOs to be a core patient service within ophthalmology, and where in place, have a dramatic impact on patients’ quality of life. The RCOphth believes that the ECLO service should not be reliant on charity funding and is calling on the NHS to find a way to support the service with the following:

  • National deployment and funding of an ECLO service in all hospital eye units
  • ECLO training and continued professional development support
  • Continued evaluation of the service to measure impact

The contribution of ECLOs is made possible through RNIB investment and support. The sight loss charity ensures that ECLOs are supported through an academically accredited and robust training programme, including continued professional development and working within a quality framework3.

At a time when the NHS is looking for better models of care and intervention to overcome increasing patient demand, ECLOs can increase capacity in the hospital eye service and deliver the human touch needed for vulnerable patients.

 

Editors notes

  1. Llewellyn M, Hilgart J, Joshi P, et alI Impact of eye clinic liaison officers: a qualitative study in UK ophthalmology clinics BMJ Open 2019. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/3/e023385
  2. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Workforce Census 2018. https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/RCOphth-Workforce-Census-2018.pdf
  3. RNIB is the single largest employer of ECLOs and currently employs 65 FTE ECLOs across the UK. ECLOs employed by Local Sight Loss Charities, Local Authorities and the NHS are trained and working in accordance with RNIB training and standards. https://www.rnib.org.uk/ecloinformation