Dr Fox attended the launch of The Royal National Institute of Blind People's (RNIB) new report ‘Being There When it Matters’, which is calling for every eye department in the UK to have access to a qualified sight loss adviser so that people are properly supported as they adapt to life with reduced or no vision. The current picture is bleak; only 30% of eye departments in the UK have access to a qualified sight loss adviser.
Sight loss advisers offer dedicated practical and emotional support. They can offer advice on everything from remaining in employment, to being more independent around the home and reducing the risk of falls whilst out and about. Recent research has revealed that sight loss advisers create significant financial savings for health and social care budgets with every £1 invested in the service delivering a return of £10.57.
The move comes as a new survey, commissioned by RNIB, reveals that 44% of UK adults said they feared losing their sight more than any other long-term health condition.
Adults in the UK are more afraid of losing their sight than they are of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease or having to use a wheelchair.
More than half of the 2,000 adults surveyed (53%) also said that they believed losing their sight would have a bigger impact on their life than other long-term health conditions, with nine in 10 saying they would lose their independence and eight in 10 concerned they would lose their job.
Liam Fox said: "Sight loss can be devastating for anyone at any time, even with the best support. Without that support, those who lose their sight can be doomed to isolation and loneliness."
RNIB's CEO, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE said: "Every single day 100 people in the UK begin to lose their sight, but even so, many of us can only imagine how devastating it must be to find out it’s happening to us. It is a profound injustice that the majority of people in this situation are not given any specialised support to help them through this extremely traumatic time.
"In less than 40 years, the number of people with sight loss is going to be double what it is now. We are determined to make the government realise that properly qualified sight loss advisers are not only absolutely crucial for patients, but that they make economic sense too."