Huge interest in new eye unit at Bexhill Hospital

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When staff at the eye clinic at Bexhill Hospital invited patients to an open day to view the new facility before it became operational they had no idea how many would accept.

By mid-morning last Friday (January 10), the queue stretched from the clinic door in Outpatients’ back to the hospital foyer.

The new clinic has been designed to cope with 50 patients a day, five days a week suffering from age-related wet macular degeneration, a condition which is the largest single cause of blindness in the Western world.

So many people turned up to tour the unit that its matron, Beverley Attridge, and her staff had to admit the visitors a few at a time so they could be escorted around the clinic and have its equipment and function explained to them.

Among the many visitors were officers and committee members from the League of Friends of Bexhill Hospital.

For both clinic staff and the league representatives the crush was living proof that the clinic will be a boon to a great many people from across the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust area.

The clinic is the product of partnership working between the Trust and the charity. The Trust has undertaken the structural work of converting and fitting out a former radiography unit storeroom which became redundant when x-ray plates gave way to digital imaging.

The league has met the £180,000 cost of equipping the unit with the latest technology. Advances in medical science mean that wet macular degeneration can now be treated by sight-saving eye injections.

Bexhill Hospital was chosen for the clinic because of its central position in the Trust’s area and because, being a smaller hospital, it offers a quieter, less hectic environment for eye patients.

Visitors were shown the specialised new chairs used during the injection process. These have electrical adjustment for height and angle and feature a head-rest designed to provide a steady platform.

The unit has two Carl Zeiss Cirrus virtual optical coherence tomography scanners. One has been transferred from the eye department at Eastbourne District General Hospital. The other – costing more than £66,000 – is among new equipment funded by the League of Friends.

The device measures the eye and in particular the layers of the retina, the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye.

An OCT scan is similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The images it produces are three-dimensional, allowing the optometrist to see problems within the eye.

The clinic became operational on Monday. The Trust plans a formal opening ceremony in February.