Volunteer opticians saw 327 patients at London’s Crisis clinics this Christmas with hundreds of pairs of glasses dispensed to people living on the streets with uncorrected vision which leaves them very vulnerable. Twenty three people were referred to hospital for ophthalmic treatment or further investigations.
Matthew, 28, visited the Vision Care for Homeless People clinic at Paddington Green and was diagnosed as being -15.00 dioptres. He lost his specs two weeks before and described “the world as being for the brave without glasses”.
Frequently subject to violence, the homeless face barriers to accessing eyecare and many rely on the year-round services of the charity which now has eight regional UK centres.
The goodwill of the optical profession and supply chain ensured that clinics ran across London during the festive week.
Maya Patel, an optometrist from Harrow, volunteering for the third successive year, explained –
“I don’t feel that it is Christmas if I am not here. Our patients make us feel very happy because they appreciate what we do so very much. We were scheduled to run 30 clinics during the week but because of the demand we have run many more.
“Our clinics are equipped with all the latest diagnostic technology – kindly loaned by optical suppliers – and our volunteers have come from all over the UK.”
Bana Garib, the Eye Clinic Service Organiser, said that more than 60 volunteers had turned up to run the service, including a number of ophthalmologists from Moorfields.
“Some of our patients speak movingly about how they have not been treated with so much decency and respect for many years. Alarmingly, we have picked up some pathology which has seen the patients referred to hospital. We have certainly seen a younger demographic this year. Glasses get broken regularly by people sleeping on buses and through street violence.”
The Vision Care for Homeless People Clinics in the UK will have seen nearly 2,000 patients during 2018 and grateful thanks for support goes to: the volunteers and optical supply companies – Alcator, Bondeye, Brulimar, Essilor, Hilton Optical, Kent Optic, Lenstec, Mainline, Mid-Optic, Optoplast, Shamir, Specsavers, Three-Sixty and Topcon.
Picture above shows the volunteer team at Paddington Green and below are (left), Maya Patel and (right) Bana Garib.