The Welsh Low Vision Service
The Welsh Low Vision Service
The National Assembly Government in Wales has funded the implementation of an all Wales Low Vision Service as part of the Welsh Eye Care Initiative. The new service, which opened its doors in the summer of 2004, is based in optometry practices and exists alongside established services in secondary care. A primary care low vision scheme in the UK is by no means unique. Indeed there have been examples around for over a decade. However, what is new, and perhaps revolutionary, about the Welsh Low Vision Service is the scale on which it operates. Just over 400 primary eyecare professionals in Wales qualify to undertake the low vision training and accreditation. Currently over 180 practitioners are accredited and are providing the service in optometry practices throughout the country. Since its inception in 2004 over 23000 people have now had a low vision assessment in a community practice with over 90,000 individual aids being prescribed on free loan to patients who require them.
How the service works
The service works closely with ophthalmologists, social services, education and the voluntary sector. Access has been optimised by ensuring that: services are geographically spread throughout Wales; referrals into the service are accepted from a range of professionals and from individuals themselves; and waiting times for most people will be less than 2 weeks.
The Welsh Low Vision Service is administered centrally by Hywel Dda Health Board. Practitioners use a standard record card and once an assessment has been completed key information is entered into a computer database in Hywel Dda to allow monitoring and evaluation. An electronic order is generated and sent to the low vision aid supplier who sends the devices to the practice for collection. The low vision aids are provided on a loan basis. A ‘Vision Passport’ is issued to people at the end of the assessment and like the ‘Personal Child Health Record’, promotes individual empowerment, provides information and facilitates interagency communication.
The Training and Accreditation
Practitioners wishing to provide the service have to undergo training and be accredited by the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University. To undertake the training practitioners must practice in Wales and be an optometrist or Ophthalmic Medical Practitioner registered with the General Optical Council (GOC) or dispensing optician registered with the GOC with a diploma in Low Vision.
Initially theoretical information is delivered in 5 internet based modules and assessed by MCQs. Those passing the theoretical modules gain 11 CET credits and are offered practical training and accreditation.
The practical training days are held in locations around Wales so that local agencies can take part. The middle of the day is used to meet, understand the roles of and form links with professionals from social services, education, employment and the voluntary sector. An experienced practitioner assesses them doing a low vision assessment and uses set criteria to determine if the practitioner should be accredited. The experienced practitioners come from all over the UK. They all have at least three years experience in providing a low vision service in hospitals, universities and community practices and have taught and/ or examined others in the subject before.
Once a practitioner is accredited they receive 13 CET credits for the practical training. They also receive all the equipment and paperwork required to provide the service.
The service will continue to develop and is informed by an ongoing audit and evaluation programme.
Last updated: 09/07/2012