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The renowned Moorfields Hospital is set to move to a new site next to St Pancras Hospital at King's Cross, bringing together eyecare, ground-breaking research and training on one site.
Work is expected to start on the Oriel project, a partnership with University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology, in spring next year with the centre opening in 2026, creating a new place for scientific discovery and patient treatment.
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The integration of eyecare, research and education in the same location is the same principle which lay behind the plans drawn up for Edinburgh’s new eye hospital next to the Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter as a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, which is no longer fit for purpose.
NHS Lothian spelled out the importance of bringing together treatment, teaching and research in the case it made to the Scottish Government: “Co-location with the research activities on the campus would enable ophthalmology in Lothian to retain and attract the best calibre of medical staff for patient care. Closer proximity to the University of Edinburgh Medical School will support the training and development of ophthalmology trainee medical staff.”
The new hospital seemed to have been scrapped when ministers said in December they would not fund it and although the SNP manifesto pledges to replace the Eye Pavilion, campaigners are still unsure whether that amounts to a go-ahead for the project.
Now two leading sight-loss charities say the Moorfields example must be followed for eye care in the Capital.
James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland said: "Moorfields is a centre of excellence with world leading research, works across professional disciplines and with the sight loss community to ensure excellent outcomes for peoples' eye health.
"As well as providing the best possible eyecare in the Lothians, we should build on the potential of the Eye Pavilion, enhancing research opportunities to equip health services here in Scotland, and to play our part elsewhere in providing expert knowledge, protecting people's sight."
Mark O'Donnell, chief executive of Sight Scotland, said at the heart of Moorfields' success in winning huge funding for eye health initiatives was the co-location of their eyecare services and clinical research centres.
"The example of Moorfields shows the benefits in locating treatment and research facilities together. It means specialist clinicians can work seamlessly between centres for treatment and research, maximising the use of their time and helping to involve patients more effectively in research.
"Patients are regularly updated on what research is being carried out in the hospital. They can have greater knowledge about what they are being asked to take part in and understand how they and other patients can benefit.
"This experience has informed the plans for Moorfields' new world-leading eyecare and research centre, and this approach to bringing together treatment and research was a key aspect of the proposal for a new eye hospital based at Edinburgh Bio-quarter.
"Our expert clinicians in Edinburgh and the links which the Scottish Government has developed between academics and community eyecare mean there are huge opportunities for Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole to be a world leader in research into sight loss conditions.”