Newsletter: February 2009 - Issue 3

Summary:Welcome to the February edition of the UK Vision Strategy (UKVS) Newsletter.

Welcome to the February edition of the UK Vision Strategy (UKVS) Newsletter. We are now at Issue 3 and each edition is increasing in size with the growing volume of news and local developments to report, but it is very encouraging to see the momentum and appetite for change that the UK Vision Strategy has initiated.

Since our last newsletter, work continues on the national implementation plans for all four UK countries. The first issue of the UK Vision Strategy Action Pack has now been published and is freely available to all organisations who are seeking to bring about change, and we also have a team of Champions in place and ready to provide support and advice. A series of local UK Vision Strategy partnership events are rolling out across the country to help raise further awareness of the Strategy, and planning work is now well under way for our Annual Conference on June 4th.

It is so encouraging to see input and commitment to the UK Vision Strategy coming from such a wide range of partners across all sectors of the eye health, eye care and sight loss community. Action is happening across the UK from local societies to PCTs, optical bodies, local authorities and academic institutions.

Please read on to find out more…

Anita Lightstone

Project Director - UK Vision Strategy

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Annual Conference 2009

This year VISION 2020 UK will be hosting a major UK Conference in partnership with RNIB to bring people up to date on all the exciting developments over the past year and to share experience and best practice. Full conference programme details will be available shortly on both the VISION 2020 UK and the RNIB websites, but for now please pencil into your diary the date of Thursday 4th of June and the venue of the QEII Conference Centre in London.

There will also be a poster session during the conference breaks and lunch periods so if anyone would like to find out more about submissions, please contact the UK Vision Strategy Project Team (see Contact Us section).

General UK Update

The role of VISION 2020 UK

The UK Vision Strategy is a VISION 2020 UK initiative led by RNIB, and is the UK's response to the World Health Assembly’s call for Vision 2020 national action plans to be developed worldwide. Here, we outline the role of VISION 2020 UK as the delivery of the UK Vision Strategy gains momentum.

The first area is one of coordination and monitoring which is managed through the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) - now a formal working group of VISION 2020 UK. This group, chaired by Lesley-Anne Alexander of RNIB, has broad representation from across the vision sector and is there to ensure that the spirit of cooperation and the tremendous energy and focus which led to the UK Vision Strategy is channelled into making grass-root changes. Under the SAG’s direction, implementation groups have been set up for all the four countries.

Secondly, VISION 2020 UK has many different special interest groups, which will be tasked with doing more detailed work on specific aspects of the UK Vision Strategy agenda. These groups offer the expertise and knowledge of work already being done in areas relating to children, technology, research and others. As an example, the newly-formed Macular Group is currently reviewing the AMD pathway at the request of the Department of Health.

Over 40 organisations are members of VISION 2020 UK and each of them has been asked to look at how their own strategies align with the UK Vision Strategy, what resources can be pooled to achieve specific aims and to provide an annual update of supporting activity. Further information about the work of VISION 2020 UK can be found on its website.

Latest Team Developments

As reported in our last newsletter, James Woodhead has been on secondment from Leeds City Council to the UK Vision Strategy Team as Senior Project Manager. This secondment has sadly now come to an end but his excellent work continues under the new direction of Deborah Hamlin. Deborah has extensive professional experience of working in the sight loss sector and her input to the UK Vision Strategy will be invaluable.

Lisa Hughes has also joined the team as a full-time Project Support Officer. Lisa has previously worked within the Service Development and Research department of RNIB and brings to the team a sound appreciation of eye health and sight loss issues along with much valued administrative and project management skills.

Our sincere thanks go to James for his contribution to the England Implementation Plan over the past few months and also to James' manager at Leeds City Council, Mick Ward, for initially agreeing to the secondment. We welcome both Deborah and Lisa to the team

Progress in Scotland

Planning activities are well under way and negotiations are currently taking place with the Scottish Government regarding future allocation of resources. The Scottish Government's Health Department has formed a Scottish Eye Care Group to take the work forward. This group has representation from Eye Care Scotland (hospitalised services and allied healthcare professions), Health Board leads, Optometry Scotland and the voluntary sector. In addition stakeholder reference groups have been set up to represent wider interests and they will meet on an annual basis.

For further information contact Bryn Merchant at RNIB (Scotland). Email:  

Progress in Northern Ireland

The UK Vision Strategy is being taken forward through two main channels in Northern Ireland. The first is the 'All Party Working Group', a 17-strong contingent from Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) which was launched at Stormont Parliament buildings in October 2008. The second channel is through the 'Vision Strategy Implementation' (VSI) Group. This group is made up of senior civil servants and other key representatives and was launched in November 2008.

Planning work has identified six priority areas which are being taken forward by a number of action groups. Further progress will be reported at the next full meeting of the VSI group in March.

For further information contact Chris Wilson at RNIB (Northern Ireland). Email:  

Progress in Wales

Key players are in discussions with the Welsh Assembly to agree key action priorities and further plans are expected to be launched later in the year. In the interim a Welsh Glaucoma Alliance is being established. For further information contact Sarah Rochira at RNIB (Cymru). Email:  

Progress in England

An England Group, with representation from key players right across the sector, has now been established and is leading on the development of an implementation plan for the UK Vision Strategy across England. This plan is nearing completion and is due for release in April 2009. For further information contact Deborah Hamlin, Senior Project Manager - UK Vision Strategy. Email:  

Regional Activity

Scottish Ophthalmic Club

A mini-symposium on the UK Vision Strategy is being held by the Scottish Ophthalmic Club in Hamilton on Friday 27 February in order to raise awareness of the Strategy and to increase engagement from this vital sector. The event will include an overview of the UK-wide strategy alongside the more specific agenda for action across Scotland.


A meeting of the Postgraduate teaching faculty will take place at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on 6 March. VISION 2020 UK Chair, Nick Astbury will address the meeting and make a presentation about the global initiative, VISION 2020 UK and the aims and objectives of the UK Vision Strategy.

North East Partnership Seminar

A partnership seminar was held at the Copthorne Hotel, Newcastle on Monday 26 January to help stimulate local action against the UK Vision Strategy across the North East Region of England. The event was attended by approximately 60 people with broad representation from local societies, the commissioning bodies of local PCTs and the social care divisions of local authorities, schools and colleges, libraries, optometrists and hospital ophthalmologists. In the course of the afternoon's event, the audience was tasked with identifying real and practical ideas that will be actioned in their local area as a result of the seminar. Feedback and progress from those actions will be followed up in coming months.

Similar partnership events are taking place across the UK throughout 2009. For further information about events taking place in your local area, or for further details about the actions arising from the North East partnership seminar, please contact the UK Vision Strategy Project Team (see Contact Us section).


Leeds Vision Strategy has been signed off by Leeds PCT and Leeds City Council and implementation has now begun. Three sub-groups of the Leeds Vision Programme Team - Ophthalmic Public Health, Community Eye Care and Sight loss Services - are leading on the key priority actions for Leeds which include:

  • establishing and evaluating a network of 'Community Eye Champions'
  • commissioning and evaluating a new integrated community eye care service
  • mainstreaming the Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO) service
  • a contract review of voluntary sector sight loss support provision

The final version of the Leeds Vision Strategy will be published shortly. For further information and to order copies of the document, please contact James Woodhead, Strategic Partnership Team. Email:  

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland

The work in this area was first reported in our November newsletter, following a successful strategic partnership event which won buy-in from all the local statutory agencies. As a result, a multi-agency steering group, led by Vista, has been set up to host a conference for team leaders and front line managers on 12 March.

The aim of the conference is to ensure that sight loss issues are considered in all aspects of local life in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. This is not about inventing new work streams and priorities but simply embedding the aims of the UK Vision Strategy into existing local plans so that eye care and sight loss issues are not ignored or overlooked and visually impaired people are fully included in society. This scope of work is incredibly broad and potentially concerns everyone - from ophthalmology consultants to the bin men!

Future developments will be reported through the local strategic Physical and Sensory Disability Programme Board, which will identify key performance indicators, track progress and make sure sight loss issues retain a high profile. For further information, contact Jenny Pearce, Chief Executive, Vista. Email:  


A partnership initiative involving Doncaster PCT, Doncaster Social Services and RNIB is working on a special project to improve access to local services for blind and partially sighted people. Three key actions have been identified:

  • A local Vision Strategy network is being set up involving a wide cross-section of service users and professionals. ie: NHS Doncaster, Doncaster Council services, voluntary sector groups and contacts from each of the Primary Care Services (GP/Dentist/Optometrist/ Pharmacy).
  • A resource pack is being developed in order to address the current lack of information and clarity on the range of services available to patients in and around the Doncaster area.
  • A programme of awareness training for patients with sight loss is being developed for front line Primary Care staff and will roll out from March onwards.

For further information contact Laura Taylor at Doncaster Primary Care Trust. Email:  


Open Sight is an organisation that works with blind and partially sighted people across Hampshire. On the afternoon of Tuesday 31 March they will be hosting a conference at the Winchester Discovery Centre entitled: "Driving the Agenda Forward". This event will seek support for the objectives of the UK Vision Strategy and identify specific actions that can be delivered in the Hampshire area. Lesley-Anne Alexander, Chief Executive of RNIB will deliver a keynote address. For further information contact Evelyn Archenhold at Open Sight. Email:  


Essex County Council is planning a special conference to discuss and share information on Sensory developments across Essex - a pivotal element of this conference will be the local implementation of the UK Vision Strategy. The original conference date of 4 February was postponed due to adverse weather but a further date will be scheduled for March or April. For further information please contact Juliet Beaumont at Essex County Council. Email:

Other News and Events

International Developments

On January 21, the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended endorsement of the Draft Action Plan for the Prevention of Blindness and Visual Impairment at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May. The draft action plan was prepared in collaboration with WHO Regional Offices, Member States and international partners and is the result of a three-year effort to increase support for prevention of visual loss around the world. For further information visit the VISION 2020 website

Talking to politicians

In the run up the next general election, a series of visits and briefings will be offered to MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) in order to raise awareness of the key issues that drive the UK Vision Strategy. This will be a cross-party, politically neutral campaign to present a consistent and cohesive call to action from across the eye health and sight loss sectors.

MPs and key PPCs from every UK constituency will be invited to visit a local facility such as an optometric practice or resource centre where they will meet a group comprising optics, local blind society, low vision group, Age Concern and any other parts of the Vision Strategy coalition who are in a position to participate. Further details of the programme roll-out and supportive briefing information will be available shortly. For further information contact Heather Marshall of the Association of Optometrists. Email:  

"Health Hotel": Party Conference Activity

The Eye Health Alliance has been appointed this year's Chair of the "Health Hotel" - a collaborative programme of health-related activities and events at the main annual political party conferences. The "Health Hotel" is attended and supported by health ministers, health spokespeople and a wide range of parliamentarians who help to influence and shape future health policy.

As the next general election approaches, this is a particularly timely opportunity for the eye health sector to influence policy and ensure that the importance of eye health remains on the political radar. For more information, please contact Sarah Lapham, Eye Health Alliance. Email:  

World Glaucoma Day (12 March)

A number of events are planned for World Glaucoma Day 2009. Awareness raising posters have been produced for distribution to a wide range of audiences including optometrists, community/faith groups, eye hospitals etc.

A reception will be held at the House of Commons on the evening of 11th March hosted jointly by RNIB, International Glaucoma Association (IGA)/Moorfields and Glaucoma Alliance. And on the 12 March, the IGA will be organising a range of events throughout the day at the Commonwealth Club in London. This includes the Janice Krushner Memorial Lecture from 13.30 - 16.30 followed by their AGM from 16.30 - 17.00. For further information contact Sarah Zerbib of the International Glaucoma Association. Email:  

Shared Streets Campaign

"If people can't tell where the pavement ends and the road begins, how can you feel safe?" This is the theme of the Shared Streets campaign currently being led by Guide Dogs.

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), the

Government's advisory body on disability and transport, is supporting the call for a moratorium on the building of shared surface

schemes, pending the outcome of research commissioned by the Department for Transport. Campaigners have lobbied Environment and Transport Ministers about the issue and so far over 40 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion to back this call.

For further information on what you can do to support this campaign, please contact David Cowdrey, Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager - Guide Dogs. Email:  

Seminar on Health Inequalities

On 21 January the RNIB held a cross-sector workshop to look at the issue of avoidable sight loss in groups most at risk, particularly minority ethnic and low income groups. The event was attended by a wide range of organisations including Department of Health and NHS, local authorities, ophthalmologists, opticians, academics, charitable organisations, ethnic and genetic interest groups. The key themes debated at this event will influence RNIB's strategic policy development work and further research and meetings around a variety of related issues are being planned.

For further information contact Pritti Mehta, RNIB Senior Research Officer. Email:  

New joint committees within the optical sector

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) and the Federation of Dispensing Opticians (FODO) have formed a number of new joint committees and have invited other optical partners to join them.

The aim of this new committee structure is to collaborate more widely across the sector and to speak together with one voice on issues of mutual issues. For further information about these new structures, please contact Anne Fedrick of the Federation of Dispensing Opticians (FODO). Email:  

New Ophthalmic Public Health Course

The Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Leeds has developed a new Ophthalmic Public Health module to train students to start developing their own local "community eye health" programme in line with the WHO public health initiative "VISION 2020 - The Right to Sight" and the UK Vision Strategy.

The module allows students to explore the eye care needs of different communities and to develop local facilities which will, in turn, better meet those needs. The objectives of the UK Vision Strategy are closely linked within this work. For further details about this module, please contact Stuart Petch, University of Leeds. Email:  

Contact Us

Tell us your news

Do you have a story or contribution for the next edition of the UK Vision Strategy newsletter in May? If so then please send your details to Claire Filby, Communications Manager - UK Vision Strategy. Email: Tel: 0207 388 1266 (x2460)

UKVS Project Team

For general enquiries, feedback and suggestions, to order copies of the Action Pack or DVD, or to tell us if you want to change the format* by which we send future news and information to you, please contact Harsha Gajjar, Project Manager - UK Vision Strategy. Email: Tel: 0207 391 2043

* Available formats include electronic and hard copy (standard and large print), Braille. Audio CD and Audio tape.

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