These are difficult times and a real challenge for services such as ECLO that are typically delivered face to face in eye departments.
At RNIB we have made the decision, as far as is possible, to not furlough front line staff who are providing blind and partially sighted people with advice, information and support. This has been the case with all our ECLOs across the UK who have been redeployed as home workers using laptops with secure communications. With some eye clinics partially closed the difficulty is sustaining a constant referral route into support. However, we have developed a few initiatives to try to overcome this:
Ongoing referrals from medical staff – Referrals made directly from eye departments that are still operating into ECLOs working from home. In some cases, the numbers have risen or remained constant. However, as more clinics close these numbers may fall.
Staying in Touch calls (SIT) – Referrals from enquiries made to our advice centre and directed to ECLOs. We have developed a route from advice line into ECLO that should see a steady flow of ‘ECLO’ type referrals against a triaged ‘most in need’ criteria. This is a service open to anyone contacting our advice line on 0303-123-9999 and hence open to all local sight loss charities and their members/beneficiaries.
Revisiting existing patients who recently had contact – Contacting recent patients (over the last 12 months) whom we know would have been due further treatment or had appointments planned.
Enhancing self-referral routes 1 – Adding ECLO contact details to social media and websites of CCGs/Ophthalmic units/social care providers.
Enhancing self-referral routes 2 – Adding RNIB Helpline/ECLO contact details to appointment cancellation letters to provide a self-referral route into our services.
Further to this, in the next few weeks we will be contacting stakeholders in the NHS to offer a follow up service to contact patients (from particular risk groups) that have had appointments cancelled. We are not doing this right away because we know how hard the NHS staff are working on the real problems in front of them. However, this initiative will be a move towards supporting recovery.
In support of the above we have been contacting the funders and commissioners of services with prepared communications that explain our activity. We want to convince them that we are here to help and that we can be flexible in delivery of this help.
We think that its hugely important that RNIB and the sector is seen to be present and visible during this moment. That’s why we are trying to keep the service up and running. We would urge Visionary members irrespective of whether they are funded by RNIB or not to try to do the same appreciating the additional financial pressures many are feeling at the moment. We are happy to share some of the details and indeed we have already shared the communication templates with all those societies that we part fund.
If, however, a local society provider part funded by RNIB does decide to go down the furlough route then we are happy to talk to them on a case by case basis. We have had only one request about this so far. We replied to this encouraging them to stay open for business. We received a reply suggesting that this was their intention. We would encourage those who have expressed concerns to get in contact with us so we can give reassurance and discuss how we can support them.
The grant agreements are quite flexible as they stand having agreed tapered funding arrangements that encourage the local society to plan well in advance of the shift in the ratio of RNIB: Local society funding contribution. However, a rule of thumb would be that if a local society ECLO goes into furlough then RNIB would reduce its contribution in line with the ratio it had agreed to pay at that period. To reiterate we would discuss on a case by case basis and are always willing to listen to your members if they have some concerns.
Our primary motive is to keep services running at a time when they are needed the most.
Director of Services