International recognition for pioneering group

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A pioneering team based in Bishopbriggs has been nominated for a major international award for their work with dementia and sight loss.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) Practice and Development Team has been nominated in the ‘Service Innovation Team of the Year’ category in the International Dementia Awards 2015. They will hear later this month whether they have won.

Manager Anne McMillan said: “Being nominated for these awards reinforces our reputation as an organisation that seeks to work creatively with others, to share our specialist knowledge, and to put people with sight loss at the heart of the services offered.

“Last month, we won a ‘highly commended’ Astbury Award for collaborative working in this field. It would be a real achievement for us to win two awards this autumn.”

The team, based at a purpose-built centre in Springfield Road in Bishopbriggs, has pioneered techniques to identify ‘hidden’ sight loss in adults with learning disabilities.

Ms McMillan explained: “People with a learning disability are ten times more likely to have a serious sight problem than others, but often this goes undetected because they are unable to easily communicate problems with their vision.”

“Loss of vision can significantly affect a person’s ability to manage their daily living, reduces their confidence and increases vulnerability.

“The problem is that traditional methods of diagnosis might not be effective. For instance, people with complex needs may have difficulty reading - so the traditional eye-chart wouldn’t be an appropriate testing method for them.

“We have redesigned the entire eye-care process, from how to best gather information from a client, to what alternative tools and techniques can be used to recognise sight problems.”

Previously, the team has won a Scottish Dementia Award for its work in training ‘vision champions’ to act as advocates for individuals with undetected sight loss. They have also played a key role in training other health and social care staff in the specialist techniques they have developed.

John Legg, director of RNIB Scotland, said: “The Practice and Development Team has made East Dunbartonshire a national centre of excellence in their field.

“They have led the way in shining a light onto an important but previously little understood problem, and enhanced the quality of life for many vulnerable people in the process.”