THE Kingston Vision Strategy has celebrated the successes of its three pilot initiatives.

The strategy group, which includes its chair Mary Heathcote OBE, and representatives from leading eye sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT), the Royal Eye Unit at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Kingston Clinical Commissioning Group, Public Health, Sight and Hearing Service, Local Optical Committee and Kingston Association for the Blind, came together to celebrate the progress to date of the pilots which were delivered by TPT.

About 40 people, also including Deputy Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Councillor Rowena Bass, Eye Unit Support Service volunteers, Visual Impairment (VI) Parliament MPs and various other stakeholders, attended the event on Monday, June 6 where TPT shared updates on the pilots, evaluation feedback and the future plans for them.

Each of the pilot initiatives – the VI Parliament, Kingston Employment Project and the Eye Unit Support Service – has had many successes in the short time they have been running.

The VI Parliament comprises six volunteer MPs who represent the visually impaired people in Kingston to influence and improve all aspects of the life of their community. One of the Parliament’s major achievements is getting agreement from Kingston Hospital to paint a navigation line from the bus stop to the Royal Eye Unit.

The Kingston Employment Project involves local services working together to improve employment opportunities for visually impaired people of working age in Kingston.

With 38,000 patients visiting the Royal Eye Unit each year, the volunteer Eye Unit Support Service was set up in September 2014 to provide emotional and practical support to those newly diagnosed with visual impairment or receiving treatment for their eye condition as it can be confusing, daunting and isolating. Volunteers in the support service have provided 1650 volunteering hours until the end of March, 2016, providing support to 3800 patients.

Both the VI Parliament and the Eye Unit Support Service have been externally evaluated (1) by the University of Cambridge and the services were found to be extremely valuable to the VI community in the Royal Borough of Kingston.

To ensure the long term sustainability of these services they will be transferred from TPT to key local providers to continue to deliver this much needed support. Kingston Centre for Independent Living is now hosting the VI Parliament and the Royal Eye Unit will be managing the Eye Unit Support Service.

Michelle Baxter Wickham, Development and Innovation Manager for TPT, commented: “We want to thank everyone who has been involved in the pilot services, particularly our volunteers who have given so much of their time and energy to make the services possible and successful over the past year and a half.”

Hooman Sherafat, the Clinical Director for Ophthalmology at the Royal Eye Unit, commented: “The close collaboration and contribution of so many committed and passionate organisations and stakeholders, sharing a common goal of serving the best interest of the visually impaired has delivered far more than it could have ever been imagined and offers the hope and belief that there is no limit to what we can achieve through partnership.”

Roberta Cole, Commissioning and Redesign Manager at Kingston CCG explains: “At the heart of Kingston CCG’s mission is to work with local people and ever improve the quality of local NHS services, enable them to understand their care needs and for them to remain as independent as they can.” “Working with partners in the borough is the best way of achieving this, and I’m delighted with the success of Kingston’s Vision Strategy projects. Kingston CCG looks forward to its continued working with local partners, to deliver even greater outcomes for the people of Kingston”.



(1) The University of Cambridge VI Parliament evaluation summary can be found here and the Eye Unit Support Service evaluation summary can be found here.