Opinion Former Article

Guide Dogs: Launch of new guide helps optometrists in general practice improve care for people with sight loss

Guide Dogs and The College of Optometrists have joined together to launch a ground-breaking new book called Low vision - the essential guide for optometrists, written by optometrists Barbara Ryan and Maggie Woodhouse and ophthalmologist Anne Sinclair.

The guide is designed to meet the need of the optometrist, and recognises the key role the optometrist can play in helping someone come to terms with permanent sight loss.

The publication equips readers with the background knowledge and practical skills necessary to provide excellent care and advice to patients with low vision and their families. In it, the authors focus on the importance of understanding a patient's situation, and what optometrists can do to ensure patients have timely access to practical and emotional support and services that can help them come to terms with and adapt to their low vision.

'Low vision - the essential guide for optometrists' combines factual information about visual impairment in the UK with topics including improving the patient experience, working with other services and agencies, low vision aids and mobility aids, and supporting visually-impaired children and people with a learning disability.

Barbara Ryan, an optometrist who practices in Wales, explains: "When someone has a problem with their sight, an optometrist is usually the first professional they turn to for help. Optometrists are therefore ideally placed to help the patient accept and live with their low vision. Through a broader understanding of low vision, and making simple changes to the way they assess and manage patients with sight loss, the optometrist can make a real difference to someone's life by 'bridging the gap' between diagnosis and access to vital information and services."

The College of Optometrists, which commissioned the authors to write the book, is distributing the engaging and user-friendly guide free of charge to all its UK members and students.

Dr Rob Hogan, President of The College of Optometrists, says: "With the development of the UK Vision Strategy, which aims to transform the UK's eye health, eye care and sight loss services, the publication of this excellent resource is particularly timely. There are very few specific and comprehensive texts about patients with low vision tailored to optometrists in general practice. That is why we asked the authors to write this guide, and I'm delighted the College has had the opportunity to work with Barbara, Anne and Maggie and Guide Dogs on it."

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association edited and designed the book. Chief Executive, Bridget Warr, says: "Many people with sight loss say that the shock, fear and loss of confidence at the time they began experiencing vision problems prevented them making progress in adapting to their new situation. Given the right help at an early stage, however, the story can be very different. The timely provision of information, together with skilled emotional and practical support, can help people find the motivation they need to move on with their lives. We are pleased to have been able to collaborate on this guide, which supports our commitment to ensuring people with vision loss can lead full and rewarding lives, and contributes directly to the delivery of the UK Vision Strategy. Optometrists have a key role in making this happen, and we are delighted to be working with The College of Optometrists in the development of this guide."

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