A patient has her eye examined

East Midlands eye disease patients help drive innovative research developments

Date: 20 November 2018

New data released by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) reveals that over 5,000 patients in the East Midlands have taken part in NHS eye disease research studies since 2010.

76 per cent of hospitals in England now offer patients the opportunity to take part in eye disease studies and this is contributing to research including gene therapies, robotic surgery and artificial intelligence.

Both non-commercial and commercial investment has meant that an average of 15,500 patients per year are now being offered innovative treatments for the common but life-changing diseases of glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

A new paper published today shines a light on the work done by the National Institute of Health Research to promote and foster a new wave of ophthalmic research and calls for a new long-term strategy and greater financial support in the field of eye health.

Almost 2 million people live with sight loss in the UK and it costs that UK economy some £28 billion per year. Ophthalmology remains the single busiest outpatient speciality in hospitals in the UK, with a million outpatient visits for glaucoma per year.

Eye disease research receives only one per cent of the £2 billion research spend in the UK but has delivered a growth in the number of eye and vision loss studies in the NHS’s research portfolio.

Professor Anthony King, the Clinical Research Network (CRN) East Midlands’ Speciality Lead for Ophthalmology, said:

“That so many patients across the East Midlands have been able to take part in research to help tackle eye disease is to be celebrated. The UK continues to be a global leader for eye research and that is in no small part because of the desire of patients to work with experts improve care for eye disease.

“However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We need a long term strategy to help us develop new ways to treat and prevent eye disease. A renewed focus on eye research will benefit patients now and in the future and give even more patients across the East Midlands the opportunity to benefit from exciting new treatments.”

Ensuring the development of new therapeutic interventions and better and more cost effective ways of delivering treatment for patients with eye disease is essential to allow the NHS to provide appropriate care for the growing numbers of patients requiring treatment and monitoring for their ophthalmic disease.

Professor Rupert Bourne, lead author and the national specialty lead for ophthalmology at the National Institute for Health Research, said:

“Over the last eight years, the Ophthalmology community has been instrumental in putting eye research in the UK on the map, particularly in novel research areas such as gene therapies, drug delivery systems, robotic surgery and artificial intelligence. Many of these studies are international in scope and this report
showcases the collaborative nature of eye research in the NHS.

“It’s clear the UK continues to punch above its weight when it comes to innovative research for eye disease, but sadly eye health is not the research priority it should be. A long term strategy of investment and advocacy is crucial if we’re to continue to transform prevention and treatment for patients with eye disease, and help ease the financial burden on the NHS.”


  • Summary:
    As eye disease research across the East Midlands continues to grow, experts call for a new strategy and greater funding to help patients now and in the future.
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