Creating a centre to advance eye health

Special Interest

4 May 2022

Photo by T Croggon / Moorfields Eye Hospital

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is a specialist eye hospital based in London, England. It is a world-class centre of excellence for ophthalmology research and education and is the UK’s leading provider of eye care services, seeing around 780,000 patient visits a year. In partnership with the University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology and other strategic partners, it conducts world-leading research, turning this into innovative treatments and ways of working. In fact, it sees so many patients with such a broad range of conditions that it is in a prime position to gather comprehensive data on how to treat eye disorders, and share it around the world.

The hospital’s current buildings were built over 120 years ago, at a time when hospital care was provided very differently to how it is now. “The configuration of our existing building offers little scope for true integration between the clinical, research, and teaching elements of our work and has an impact on the speed at which we can work and our ability to innovate,” says Rachel Jones, director of development at Moorfields Eye Charity.

Oriel is the joint initiative between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and Moorfields Eye Charity to create a new, integrated centre in St Pancras, London. This is within London’s Knowledge Quarter, which has one of the highest densities of knowledge based, cultural, and scientific businesses anywhere in the world. The combination of Moorfields and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology marks a collaboration between two world-class institutions under one roof, right in the heart of London. “This single centre will enable clinicians and researchers to work alongside one another with optimal access to patients,” says Rachel. “Our research will be enhanced, which will have a clinical and societal impact.”

With an aging UK population, Moorfields expects the number of people with eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic eye disease to rise rapidly over the next 15 years. These increased needs will be met by streamlining diagnostics and treatment, improving patient experience, and speeding up research and clinical progress.

Creating a new facility, purpose-built for the future, will enable Moorfields to physically integrate the adult and children’s hospital and the Institute for the first time. Of Moorfields annual patient visits, about 70,000 are children and young people. “We are seeing more and more people with rare conditions, and that’s particularly true for children, because a lot of the rare diseases are genetic,” says Robert Dufton, chief executive of Moorfields Eye Charity. “And it’s only Moorfields that sees enough cases to be able to draw information and widely share the knowledge of how to treat them.”

For example, the 3D printed prosthetic eye [1] pioneered by Moorfields could be adapted to children. This is important because children needing a prosthetic eye regularly have to undergo re-fittings with wax moulds as they grow. “This is an uncomfortable process for the child that often requires anaesthesia,” says Rachel. “Now, the measurements can be done with a simple scan, and a wax mould is no longer needed.”

“Moving to the new building is about delivery,” says Robert. “This move will transform how we combine clinical care, education, and research. Patient involvement is critical to our planning as they give their input and help influence the changes going forward.”

The partnership between Moorfields and UCL is not just about eye health, but also about brain health. By bringing medical experts in close contact with each other, this brings another dimension to the work. It seems the sky is the limit in terms of possibility, and we at Oak Foundation are excited about what the future holds. This is the second Oak grant to Moorfields Eye Charity to support Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL. You can find more about its work by watching an interview we did with Professor Lyndon da Cruz shortly after we made the first grant below.

Oak’s grants to Moorfields Eye Charity fall under our Special Interest Progamme (SIP), which reflects the Trustees’ interests in making dynamic, diverse, large, innovative, and challenging grants. You can read more about the programme by clicking here.


[1] Moorfields Eye Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust (2021). Moorfields patient receives world’s first 3D printed eye. Available from: https://www.moorfields.nhs.uk/news/moorfields-patient-receives-world-s-first-3d-printed-eye  (Accessed 09-02-22)

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