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West Midlands Local Eye Health Network wins award for helping patients living with sight loss and dementia

Eye health professionals in the West Midlands have won a national poster award for a training project to improve care for people living with both sight loss and dementia.

West Midlands Local Eye Health Network (LEHN), which is part of NHS England, won the best poster competition at the National Optical Conference in Warwick.

The poster featured a training programme created by the LEHN for optometrists and front line care workers, to help people live well with sight loss and dementia.

The LEHN partnered with Health Education England (HEE) and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to deliver the programme. A series of training events was organised by LEHN, delivered by RNIB and funded by HEE.

Training places included:

  • 120 one-day ‘Vision Friends’ training places across three sites in Birmingham, Coventry and Stafford, with participants including front line carers and staff from nursing homes and voluntary organisations
  • 250 sight loss and dementia e-learning places for front line staff working with people living with dementia
  • 60 optometrist training places in dementia-friendly principles of practice
  • 40 places for ‘Advanced Vision Friends’ half-day workshops.

Positive comments about the Advanced Vision Friends training included one response from a care home manager, who shared feedback from the training sessions with staff to highlight the effect of sight loss on independence.

One staff member noted a resident who had previously liked to complete jigsaws and sew, but was now struggling and no longer able to enjoy this. The member of staff realised that she was wearing the wrong glasses. The manager said they wouldn’t have considered that vision might be the cause of this problem before having the training.

Claire Roberts, Chair of the West Midlands LEHN, said: “Our approach to deliver bespoke training to both the dementia and eye health workforce was hugely successful. There was high interest from optometrists looking to adopt dementia-friendly principles and from carers who became ‘vision friends’.

“The high demand for places highlighted a significant gap in current training opportunities. Evaluations demonstrated an increase in knowledge as well as positive changes in practice over time, which shows that this model delivers benefits to patients and could potentially be scaled up and rolled out elsewhere.”

Competition judges Mike Bowen, Head of Research from the College of Optometrists, and Nik Sheen, Director of the Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre (WOPEC), said: “It was great to see such a strong collection of posters this year.

“The winning poster, by Claire Roberts, used the format to excellent effect. More importantly, it shared information about a local programme of work that was having impact on an important area of practice, in which there remains scope for the profession to develop services.”