The College of Optometrists has joined the RNIB and senior leaders from the NHS, social care and the charity sectors, to unveil a new UK-wide Eye Care Support Pathway.

The Pathway, led by RNIB,  is a new framework to ensure patients with eye care needs and sight loss have timely access to information, and practical and emotional advice and support throughout their eye care journey.

It is the result of two years of detailed research, including the lived experiences of more than 500 people and input from more than 30 bodies, including The College of Optometrists, representing professionals and patients across the sector.

The over-arching ambition of the Pathway is to provide patients with the information and support they need, from the moment they realise that ‘something isn’t quite right’ with their sight, through to diagnosis and onto being able to live confidently – and independently – with their condition. 

There were more than 8 million outpatient eye care appointments in the UK in 2021/22, the highest footfall for any speciality, and according to RNIB research people often report finding it difficult to access eye health and sight loss information, services and support.

With such a level of demand on NHS practitioners and eye care departments, there is a real need for change.

The event, led by The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), took place at The View, the home of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, on Thursday 16 November.

Speaking about The College’s involvement in the Pathway, College president, Professor Leon Davies FCOptom, said: “The College of Optometrists is proud to have collaborated on this RNIB-led programme of work. With the support of the NHS, the Eye Care Support Pathway will, without doubt, result in improved care experiences for patients and their families, and improved outcomes.  

“A cohesive, joined up approach right from the beginning, and throughout every patient’s journey, will transform eye care at a time when our services have never been needed more.

“As a profession we are responding to a significant need, and by working together and learning from the experiences of our patients, we have created a blueprint to enable us to provide what is required.” 

RNIB’s Chief Executive Officer, Matt Stringer, said: “We know that the experience of people with eye care needs and sight loss varies greatly across the UK. It’s not acceptable that anyone, regardless of their condition or where they live, does not get the right help and support at the right time.

“It’s encouraging to see so many partners are joining us for the event to work towards establishing, implementing, and delivering the Eye Care Support Pathway. Today is an important milestone, but only the beginning of the work we need to achieve together, bringing everyone together and moving forward to better support people across their eye care journey.”

Ahead of the launch of the Pathway, College representatives also attended an Eye Health and Visual Impairment All-Party Parliamentary Group session on 15 November. The Pathway was the focus of the session, which explored the importance of understanding the eye care support journey for eye care patients and the support that needs to be available at every stage.

It included a presentation from College President, Professor Leon Davies FCOptom, on how the College of Optometrists is working to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care now and in the future. 

The Eye Care Support Pathway Report can be read in full here