STAFF at the Ophthalmology department at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool have been praised by a national military charity for their exemplary approach to referring more blind veterans to the charity’s services and support. This comes as the department launches its annual Visual Impairment Support Services Exhibition at Aintree University Hospital, where specialist visual health companies, NHS and partner organisations demonstrate equipment to aid the partially sighted. The exhibition is running on Wednesday 3rd August between 11.30 and 14.00 and is open to patients, carers, friends and family. Staff at Blind Veterans UK were impressed by changes made to the patient referral pathway by the ophthalmology department at Aintree University Hospital which reduced the application time by six weeks, and would like to hold up these referral procedures as best practice for other eye health professionals to follow. The ophthalmology department at Aintree University Hospital was already an extremely strong referrer of blind veterans to the charity and continues to refer high numbers of patients. As part of their point of contact assessment at the Eye Clinic, patients at Aintree University Hospital suffering with sight loss are asked if they have ever served in the Army or done National Service. If so, they are referred on to Blind Veterans UK and receive specialised talks about the charity. By following these referral procedures, the ophthalmology department ensure that as many eligible patients as possible receive the free support and services the charity provides. Hilary Butter, an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) from Bradbury Fields who is contracted to Aintree Hospital, said, “After a patient has been diagnosed with sight loss, our goal is for their world to stay the same, or expand. We never want their world to get smaller. We receive wonderful feedback from the patients we refer to Blind Veterans UK about the services, training and support they have received”. One of these patients is Harry Grundy, a vision impaired National Service veteran from Bootle. Harry was diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2008 and his eyesight gradually deteriorated after this. In 2011 he was registered as partially sighted. Previously he had enjoyed working on his allotment but thought he would have to give up gardening due to his eyesight. He also became unable to do the crossword and Sudoku puzzles which he had previously enjoyed so much, and couldn’t tell the time or read without a magnifying glass. Harry said, “I was devastated to lose my sight. I had nothing to do during the day, it was boring. I relied on my wife for absolutely everything”. However, Harry’s life changed for the better when the staff at Aintree University Hospital referred him to Blind Veterans UK in 2015. Since registering for support, Harry has found a new lease of life. He has been given various equipment from Blind Veterans UK, including a magnifying screen which means he can now read and do puzzles again, a talking clock and watch to read out the time, and a telephone designed for partially sighted people. Harry said, “I was so thrilled to be able to take up my hobbies once more. I have a great appreciation for Blind Veterans UK. What they have done for me is out of this world. They have made me feel part of the community again”. Harry will appear in a short film by Blind Veterans UK promoting Aintree University Hospital’s excellent referral procedures. The film will be released as part of Eye Health Week on 19th September 2016. If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and are now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting www.noonealone.org.uk.