News | Tuesday, 16th December 2014

Help needed for some sight loss services

Report on substance abuse and vision loss support

Professor Sarah Galvani

PEOPLE with sight loss who have problems with drink or drugs struggle to get the tailored support they need, a new study suggests.

New research highlights how services for sight loss and substance use are not equipped to deal with both issues, with neither of the two services ‘monitoring’ the other concern.

While substance abuse was sometimes used as a coping mechanism for sight loss, according to the report released this week.

"The individual practitioners we spoke to do their best but they are operating with systems and structures that do not routinely consider the 'other' issue as part of their remit," said research leader Prof Sarah Galvani, Professor of Adult Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University.


"Until this changes, the services people receive are likely to be, at best, lacking and, at worst, failing them completely." 

The report, Alcohol, other Drugs and Sight Loss: A Scoping Study, by the sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust and Alcohol Research UK, combines the stories of people with sight loss with existing research to investigate links between sight loss and substance abuse. 

It was found that many sight loss professionals did not ask about a person's substance use and professionals working in the drug and alcohol sector did not ask about sight loss.

Researchers found that people with sight loss tend to drink less than their sighted peers and the number of people seeking support for both issues is small. But they pose disproportionate challenges for professionals.

Plug the gap

The report suggests: new education and training, guidance on early interventions, monitoring to screen for sight loss and vice versa, and providing information on both issues for professionals.

Dr Catherine Dennison, Head of Research, Health and Wellbeing at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said:  "We hope the study will also encourage services to work more closely together and plug the gaps this study has exposed."

Dr James Nicholls, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Research UK, added: “The report will provide a spur for the development of improved services and treatment where they are needed.”    

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