Exeter’s new Vision Care for Homeless People clinic opened this week with an enthusiastic team of volunteers. Made possible by support from the Local Optical Committee, a team of volunteer optometrists, Pret and equipment donations from Specsavers, glazing will be provided by local company Bills Opticians. It joins the group of other VCHP clinics in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Brighton.
Exeter ranks 9th in England’s listing of rough sleepers, with 0.77 per thousand, according to the latest figures available. Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, praised the initiative in view of the problem –
“I commend this project that aims to ensure homeless people can access the care they need and will also make it easier for them to move off the streets and into permanent accommodation.”
Elaine Styles, Chair of VCHP spoke at the opening about the need for the service –
“Vulnerable people often feel excluded from accessing healthcare and our approach of taking eyecare to centres where they feel at ease really can start to transform lives. In our other clinics we have seen prescriptions ranging from +17 to -20 dioptres. In fact 35% of the people we see would be registered blind under the WHO criteria if they did not have glasses. For others it is simply a case of providing reading specs, but for others we can be picking up serious pathology which needs treatment.”
Located at the Clock Tower Surgery in Wat Tyler House which brings together some 25 services for homeless and vulnerable people, the clinic will operate on Tuesday afternoons. The Clock Tower surgery staff have played an instrumental role in setting up the clinic room and will continue to contribute by managing the appointment diary. The venture will receive funding for some of the patients through the NHS, but as with the charity’s other clinics, provides a service for all patients free of charge, regardless of NHS eligibility. Additional running costs will be met through donations of money, and services in-kind plus help from volunteers. The clinic is looking for a volunteer clinic manager and administrative support, as well as opticians and optometrists.
For further information contact: VCHP Exeter
Picture shows volunteer optometrists Kieran Loft and Jane Wadsworth