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Gp\'s "failing Partially Sighted"

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from BBC News Online, June 6, 2004: http://www.news.bbc.co.uk

Over half of people with visual impairments feel family doctors could improve at least some aspects of the care they provide, a survey has found.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association interviewed 832 blind and partially sighted people.

They highlighted problems such as staff failing to help them to a seat and a lack of braille or large print advice.

The Royal College of GPs said its members were looking at ways in which the service could be improved.

Their survey asked detailed questions about people's last visit to a GP surgery. Over half needed help in finding a seat in the waiting area, yet only about 26% received it.

Ninety-five percent never received health advice leaflets in preferred format such as braille or large print.

Almost two thirds of those questioned felt other staff in the surgery were not fully aware of their needs.

"Improve access"

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is launching a campaign to improve NHS care for the blind and partially sighted in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Every surgery in the UK has been sent information about the Access for All campaign and the association aims to compile a national set of standards which would act as a model of good practice for GPs.

The association is also calling for NHS staff to receive better training so they are able to meet the needs of visually impaired people.

It is also calling for practical access to surgery premises to be improved.

Tom Pey, director of policy for the association, said: "There are around 1.7m blind and partially sighted people in the UK; 90% of these are over 60.

"As demographic trends indicate that the elderly population is set to rise in the next couple of decades, the ability of the NHS to respond to the needs of visually impaired people is of paramount importance."

"Development"

He added: "The report has highlighted specific areas in need of improvement.

"Many of these, such as assisting someone to a seat and into the surgery and improving signage around the building could easily be resolved at no great expense.

"Well trained staff, accessible information and a safe building will be of clear benefit to both patients and staff."

Dr. Maureen Baker, honorary secretary of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: "There are very real problems in gaining access to care for this group of patients.

"The RCGP Disability Task Group is exploring ways of developing training and support for GPs in their work with blind or partially sighted patients."

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