Charity celebrates as threat to funding is lifted

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STAFF at a society which provides a vital service for people affected by sight loss are celebrating after the threat to it was lifted.

The York Blind and Partially Sighted Society (YBPSS) says it is relieved after nearly £40,000 was found to allow its eye clinic liaison officer (ECLO), Vanessa Camp, who is based at York Hospital, to continue her work.

The society’s equipment and information centre at Holgate Villa, York, which is open five days a week can also continue its work.

Ms Camp supports hundreds of people each year when they are first diagnosed with a serious form of sight loss, providing information on services, helping a patient’s understanding of their eye condition and providing practical and emotional support.

However, in December last year the Primary Care Trust (PCT) told YBPSS it would be cutting it funding for the position. But it has since reversed its decision following pressure from service users and other sight loss organisations.

After having an initial appeal rejected by the PCT, YBPSS asked organisations such as the Macular Disease Society – a national charity that aims to build confidence and independence for those with vision impairment – and the RNIB for help.

The campaign paid off and the PCT subsequently invited YBPSS to put forward a new proposal, which has now been approved. The North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust will maintain a level of funding (£29,000), for both the ECLO and the equipment and information centre. In addition, YBPSS has received backing totalling £9,500 from York Hospital and its charitable trust, which will mean not only is the service saved, but that valuable improvements can be made.

YBPSS chief officer Diane Roworth said: “It’s a wonderful feeling to know that our new bid has been successful, but I have to say that relief is the overriding emotion. It has been a very difficult few months waiting to know whether or not we we’re going to be able to continue the provision. Both staff and service users were extremely worried about the situation.

“We have secured our funding for another year, and thanks to the support of York Hospital, our ECLO will now be able to attend York Hospital Eye Department for an additional day a week. The service users have been brilliant in the support they have given to us and their willingness to write to the PCT. I want to say a huge thankyou to these individuals as well as the Macular Disease Society, RNIB and everyone else involved in helping to turn this situation around. We couldn’t have done it on our own. I also want to say thankyou to the PCT and Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group for listening.

“The ECLO position provides face-to-face contact for people who need information and emotional support whilst in the Eye Clinic, and our equipment and information centre provides support in the community. The increased hours will mean we will be able to meet more people and provide a better service.”

Macular Disease Society chief executive Helen Jackman said: “This is fantastic news. The role of an ECLO is essential to help people adjust to their sight loss and access other important services. If the funding cuts had gone ahead they would have had a significant and detrimental effect on people diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration – particularly those with dry macular degeneration for whom there is no medical treatment. I’m delighted we have been able to have a positive impact on the situation and that our members in the York area joined us in campaigning to save this vital service.

NHS North Yorkshire and York (NYY) deputy chief executive Sue Metcalfe said: “NYY and The Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group recognise the excellent services that YBPSS provide for patients and all parties have worked together to secure funding through 2012/13 to ensure patients can continue to receive excellent care.”