An optometrist from Shetland has been shortlisted for a top national award following high praise from patients.
Linda Gunn is one of the nominees for this year’s Macular Society Awards for Excellence. Linda, who is an optometrist and director at ICare Shetland in Lerwick, has been shortlisted in the Optician or Optometrist of the Year category in recognition of her exceptionally good practice in the care of people with macular disease.
Linda has been working in the eyecare sector since 2003. After spells with well-known high street opticians in both Aberdeen and Brighton, she moved to Shetland around 10 years ago.
Linda said: “It’s the first time I’ve ever been shortlisted for anything like this, and I’m so pleased – especially as the nomination came from a patient.
“We do face some fairly unique challenges being based in such a remote place, but our practice has always looked to push itself clinically and make the best use of new technology wherever possible. For example, we’ve had an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scanner since 2012, which can be used to take incredibly detailed photos of a patient’s retina.
“It’s incredibly important, not just for people with macular disease, but for all our patients, that they have access to the best and most up-to-date equipment and services we can offer, especially when we’re so far from the mainland.”
Linda will find out later this month whether she has been chosen as one of the winners. If successful, Linda will be presented with her award at the Macular Society’s national annual conference, which takes place at the Leonardo Royal London Tower Bridge Hotel in London, on Saturday 21 September.
Now in its 11th year, The Macular Society Awards for Excellence is run by the charity to celebrate the inspirational work done to provide services and care for people with macular disease all over the UK.
Optician / Optometrist of the Year is one of four honours handed out by the charity as part of the awards. The category is open to practitioners working in any environment, such as a high street business, hospital or local society, who provide outstanding services to people with macular disease. There are also prizes for Clinical Service of the Year; Rising Star of the Year, and a Chairman’s Award for Volunteering.
Linda said: “We’re also fortunate that our practice has a great relationship with the ophthalmology team at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. We can send scans over to them and get advice from them very quickly if we need it.
“And the launch of the new macular clinic on Shetland earlier this year has made a massive difference. It means patients with wet age-related macular degeneration, who need regular injections to treat their condition, can have those on the island, rather than having to travel to Aberdeen for treatment, which they have had to do in the past.
“It’s easy to forget that things have changed in a relatively short space of time. When I first qualified, there was no treatment for any form of macular disease. Now, the wet form of AMD can be treated by injection, while eye drops could be suitable for some pat
ients in future. Clinical trials using stem cells have also shown some really encouraging results.
“I love what I do and it’s a very exciting time to be involved, especially with all the incredible research projects and trials that are currently under way. They are increasing our understanding of macular disease and that will hopefully lead to a cure in future.”
Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “The commitment and dedication Linda has shown in caring for people with macular disease is clear from the tremendous feedback we’ve received about her work.
“She really has made an incredible difference to the lives of people with macular disease living in her local community. It’s only right that her efforts have been recognised with this richly-deserved nomination.”
Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently affected and many more are at risk. The disease can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces. Many people affected describe losing their sight as being similar to bereavement. There is still no cure and most types of the disease are not treatable. AMD is the most common form of macular disease, affecting more than 600,000 people, usually over the age of 50.
The Macular Society's work in Scotland is generously supported by grant funders, including the RS Macdonald Charitable Trust.