On 9 October, the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) hosted the Vision UK Forward view: Vision and eye health conference, a joint conference between the RSM General Practice (GP) with Primary Health Care Section, Vision UK and in association with the RSM Ophthalmology Section and Digital Health Section.
With 190 attendees, there was a real buzz on the day. Bob Hutchinson, President, RSM General Practice with Primary Healthcare Section and Matt Broom, Chief Executive Officer, Vision UK began proceedings by welcoming the delegates, with the key message focusing on collaboration and co-operation across all professions and specialties for the benefit of people with or at risk of sight loss.
The Keynote speakers included Simon Brown, Communications and Engagement Officer at Blind Veterans UK who spoke about his own experience of sight loss, after being hit by a sniper’s bullet that almost totally blinded him.
Panel discussions were on the four strategic priorities of Vision UK: Evidence and statistics, research, cures and treatments, services, support and care, and public perception of sight loss. Experts presented on key issues and the audience was really engaged in discussions. Delegates were able to learn from the experts onstage as well as each other.
Carol Reece, Head of Dental and Optical Services Commissioning at NHS England spoke to the delegates about improving services, specifically for children with learning disabilities and the new national programme of eye care in all special schools in England beginning in 2020.
Workshops focused on topics such as sight loss and conditions including dementia and learning disabilities; the different and similar approaches across the regions of the UK; and issues around opportunities for blind and partially sighted children and young people.
Bhavini Makwana, Engagement Manager at London Vision, presented a powerful speech to delegates about public perceptions of sight loss, and the barriers that are still faced by blind and partially sighted people, reminding us of the importance of the work being achieved across the sight loss sector.
The final panel discussion asked the question: Is integrated health and social care for eye health and sight loss services a reality or an impossible dream? The panel were optimistic that eye health and care could be improved by the integration of services but also acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done.
Matt Broom CEO Vision UK said:
“We are really happy to have staged our first conference as Vision UK and that we were able to attract so many excellent speakers and delegates. The conference allowed all participants to interact and network and we hope that the collaboration and co-operation will increase as a result as that is Vision UK’s central remit.
We’d like to thank the RSM for being great partners in this and look forward to our next conference in 2020.”
Bob Hutchinson Section RSM President commented:
“The sheer energy that could be felt throughout the day was highly infectious and our key message of working outside silos and with others in the expanded Primary, Secondary and Social Teams was reiterated by all delegates during the many opportunities for networking. The RSM facilities and staff all played their part in making this joint conference truly memorable.”