Vision UK 2014 conference

The leading eye health and sight loss sector conference

The sixth annual Vision UK conference took place on Thursday 12 June at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London. By all accounts, the event was a huge success, with more than 500 turning out to hear from a number of key leaders from the eye health and sight loss sector.

Morning session

The day’s programme began with VISION 2020 UK Chair Nick Astbury welcoming delegates to Vision UK 2014. This was followed by an address from Tiri Hughes, Blind Children UK service user, and Richard Leaman CB OBE, Chief Executive of Blind Children UK and Guide Dogs, with a focus on ‘opening up the world’.

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 Anita Lightstone, Chief Operations Officer for VISION 2020 UK and UK Vision StrategyProgramme Director, then took to the stage. Anita spoke about the theme of the conference for 2014, which was ‘Turning the UK Vision Strategy into Action.’

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Following Anita’s address was the exciting launch of NHS England’s ‘Improving Eyecare – A Call to Action’, marking a groundbreaking engagement of the government with the eye health agenda.  Unveiled by NHS England Deputy Medical Director Mike Bewick, the Call to Action will focus on a preventative approach, early detection and community management.

NHS England invite the public, patients and professionals to have their say, with the survey remaining open until 12th September 2014. 

For more information on the Call to Action, please click here.

The morning session concluded with a very well-received keynote speech from the Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group (APPDG).

Morning parallel streams

After a break for networking, poster viewing and refreshments, delegates attended one of four morning parallel streams.

Stream one, entitled ‘Making the UK Vision Strategy happen’, was chaired by Lesley-Anne Baxter, Chair of the British and Irish Orthoptic Society and VISION 2020 UK Trustee. The session was very much tied to the theme of the day, and  featured four leading experts, who explained how collaboration has helped them put the UK Vision Strategy 2013-2018 into action.

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Stream two, chaired by Mhairi Thurston, lecturer at Abertay University, was ‘The emotional impact of vision impairment.’ Three key speakers discussed the latest research and projects that focus on the emotional consequences of sight loss.

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The third stream was ‘Advances in travel and transport,’ chaired by Chris Lewis of the VISION 2020 UK Technology for Life Group. Featuring five experts, the stream analysed both the successes and upcoming challenges with regards to technological developments in the areas of travel and transport.

The fourth and final stream was a new addition to the Vision UK programme for 2014, and featured nine 10-minute presentations. Each presenter demonstrated how their work has contributed to the successful implementation of UK Vision Strategy outcomes. Chaired by Richard Wormald, FRCOphth Consultant at Moorfields Eye Hospital, the session was extremely well-received and is likely to remain a fixture on the programme into 2015 and beyond.

For further information on the oral presentations, please click here.

Afternoon Masterclasses

Following a break for lunch, networking and poster viewing, delegates had a choice to attend one of six afternoon masterclasses on offer. Each masterclass focused on a particular outcome of the UK Vision Strategy, as below:

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• Masterclass A: Prevention of sight loss, chaired by Paul Desai, Consultant in Ophthalmology and Public Health, Moorfields Eye Hospital, and Chair, VISION 2020 UK Ophthalmic Public Health Committee.

• Masterclass B: Reaching the hard to reach groups in eyecare, chaired by Dr David Geddes, Head of Primary Care Commissioning, NHS England.

• Masterclass C: New approaches to delivering eyecare, chaired by Bryony Pawinska, Chief Executive, The College of Optometrists and VISION 2020 UK Trustee.

• Masterclass D: The future of rehabilitation, chaired by Lord Low of Dalston CBE, RNIB Vice President.

• Masterclass E: Excellence in recruitment, chaired by Miriam Martin, Chief Executive, Action for Blind People.

• Masterclass F: Implementing the children and young people’s pathway, chaired by Jenny Cook, Head of Strategy and Research, Guide Dogs, and Chair, VISION 2020 UK Children and Young People (CYP) with a Vision Impairment Group.

Poster Competition:

This year saw another excellent response to the poster competition. Entrants from all over the UK showcased a variety of innovative initiatives that demonstrated effective implementation of the UK Vision Strategy, at both a local and national level.

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Congratulations to the poster competition winners for each outcome.

Outcome 1: A collaborative project to make sight tests more accessible for people with learning disabilities - designed by the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) with advice and support from SeeAbility and Mencap.

Outcome 2: Barking and Dagenham Magnifier Workshop – equipment advice service for people with sight loss

Outcome 3: Local data about blind and partially sighted people and those at risk of sight loss - RNIB's Sight Loss Data tool.

For more information, and to view all poster abstracts, please click here

Question Time panel

The final session of Vision UK 2014 was the Question Time panel, which featured lively debate around key issues and challenges facing the sector, and provided delegates with the opportunity to engage with eye health and sight loss leaders.

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The Question Time panel consisted of:

• Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE, Chief Executive, RNIB and Chair, UK Vision Strategic Advisory Group
• Vidar Hjardeng MBE, Diversity Consultant, ITV News
• Carrie MacEwen, new President, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists
• Rachel Stancliffe, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare

Concluding Remarks

Following the conclusion of the Question Time panel, RNIB Chief Executive Lesley-Anne Alexander took to the stage to make a presentation to both Anita Lightstone and Nick Astbury, with this year’s Vision UK conference being the last for both of them in their current roles.

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Nick Astbury then addressed the delegates with some closing remarks after what was a very successful day.

We thank everyone who came along to Vision UK 2014, and we look forward to seeing you next year! 

Video courtesy of Optometry Today.