Blind Veterans UK is welcoming a new Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) form and accompanying Explanatory Notes for ophthalmologists, which have been launched on the Department of Health website.
The military charity is part of a working group with other charities, led by the RNIB, which has supported the development of the new CVI form. This form is issued to patients assessed by a consultant ophthalmologist as being vision-impaired and often provides the first opportunity for patients to access information about support and services
Now, for the first time, the CVI Explanatory Notes advise consultant ophthalmologists to ask their patients if they have ever served in the Armed Forces, and if so, to signpost them to Blind Veterans UK.
Lara King, group manager of Blind Veterans UK's No One Alone Campaign, which aims to reach the 59,000 ex-Service men and women who could be eligible for the charity's support, said: "We know that almost one quarter (24 per cent) of our veterans go six years or more before receiving our life-changing services and support. The new guidelines are a great opportunity to reach vision-impaired veterans at the point of diagnosis, and ensure that no one who has served their country has to battle sight loss alone."
Blind Veterans UK has been supporting changes to the CVI since 2014 to ensure that vision-impaired veterans are referred to the charity as soon as possible. Blind Veterans UK spoke to MPs and representatives from the Department of Health about the need to revisit the guidelines at a parliamentary event in 2014, and has since worked with partners in the sector to provide better information about sources of support.
The CVI form also refers people to "Sight Loss: What we needed to know," for further information and advice. Blind veteran Simon Brown lost his sight after being shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq. He currently works for the No One Alone Campaign and was part of a consultation group that helped develop the new sight loss guide.
Simon said: "I'm really pleased that these new guidelines have come in so that people can be signposted to the support they need as soon as possible. Blind Veterans UK helped me during a very difficult time in my life, and I think that everyone who has experienced sight loss should know how and where to find support when they most need it."
For more information about the work of Blind Veterans UK and the new CVI, please visit www.blindveterans.org.uk/newCVI
If you are a vision-impaired ex-Service man or woman, or care for someone who is, find out more at www.blindveterans.org.uk/noonealone or telephone 0800 389 7979.