Crisis opticians service enthuses volunteers

Volunteers powered up eyecare clinics throughout London during the Crisis week – and saw hundreds of clients, dispensing glasses with extreme powers ranging from -9.5 to +10.5 dioptres.

Organised by Vision Care for Homeless People in conjunction with Crisis, the service brought huge satisfaction for the team of 75 optometrists, dispensing opticians and optometry students. They were supported by visiting ophthalmologists who were on hand to check any serious concerns, which included 22 cases, some of which were referred to London hospitals.

First time volunteer was East Midlands ophthalmologist, Helen Burn –

“I thought the opticians’ service for Crisis at Christmas was absolutely fantastic and felt an enormous privilege to be a part of it. I was overwhelmed by how professional and well organised it was. Everybody had very clear roles, the equipment provided was brilliant and the general atmosphere was great.

“One of our first clients had been blind in one eye since a young age and never knew why – on examination we could see a large macular toxoplasmosis scar and so could explain to him that he would have had an infection at a young age which affected his eye. Another client was a diabetic who does not attend diabetic retinopathy screening largely because the system requires you to be contacted via an address, however he has been screened almost annually by our service which is a fantastic opportunity to pick up early signs of visual loss,” she said.

Organiser of the week was London optometrist, Bana Amin, who first volunteered for the charity when she was a student at Anglia Ruskin University –

“I was asked if I would run the Crisis service – which relies completely on volunteers, so we have to be very flexible. From the Paddington hub we ran ten satellite clinics around London to which we sent mobile teams. Including the set-up it was eight days non-stop – exhausting but amazingly rewarding. I work in a number of High Street opticians and I know these patients are not generally welcome and how society views them, but at Crisis they are all treated with great dignity and respect. We provide a very professional service using advanced eye scanning technology.”

Tremendous support was provided by a host of optical companies, including Bondeye, Essilor, Hilton Eyewear, Mid-Optic, Optoplast, Outside Clinic, Readyspex, Specsavers, Topcon and Visioncall. Essilor glazed 235 pairs of specs for those attending the clinics and 54 pairs of ready readers were dispensed, making it a very worthwhile service, believes the charity.

Vision Care for Homeless People run regular weekly clinics in London, Birmingham, Brighton and Manchester. To find out more about volunteering visit please contact

Pic shows volunteer optician Stephen Butler, on the left, with client Paul who was collecting his spectacles.

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