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Outlook for eye care a whole lot brighter

09 February 2008

Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences has celebrated the official opening of its flagship facility today (Friday 8 February 2008).

The new £21M home of Wales’ only provider of academic optometry and vision sciences, representing the largest single investment in eye care anywhere in the UK, was unveiled by the First Minister Rhodri Morgan AM.

Opened in the University’s 125th Anniversary year, the new School building provides the University and Wales with one of the most advanced facilities in which to further understanding of the causes, prevention and treatment of a wide spectrum of vision conditions.

About two million people in the UK have significant sight loss, of whom 100,000 are living in Wales. Of those aged over 75 with a visual impairment, about half have treatable conditions such as cataracts or refractive error; it is also estimated that every day in the UK another 100 people start to lose their sight.

The University’s new state-of-the-art building on Maindy Road, Cardiff has for the first time brought teaching, clinical practice and research under one roof. The increased capacity enables the School to undertake more pioneering research with global significance into such conditions as age-related macular degeneration (the major cause of blindness in the elderly), glaucoma, diabetic complications, cataracts and myopia (short-sightedness), low vision and binocular vision.

The public Eye Clinic has also doubled in size and specialist clinical services for patients across Wales who have special educational needs, diabetes, glaucoma, epilepsy, partial sight and blindness have been enhanced as a result.

Before unveiling a specially commissioned plaque with the help of two young patients of the eye clinic, First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: "It’s plain to see that in the 125th anniversary year of Cardiff University, this excellent new facility will further the University’s reputation as a centre of excellence for research; not only in Wales and the UK but in the world as a whole.

"The significant breakthroughs that the School has made in the past are testimony to the dedication and professionalism of the staff here and with these excellent new facilities I can see a bright future ahead for them, maybe for another 125 years!"

Already considered to be the leader in its field, the School attained the highest possible ratings for both its research and teaching quality in recent inspections. The new building offers teaching facilities for more than 300 undergraduates and postgraduate students, as well as housing cutting-edge laboratories and clinical suites for research, professional optometric training and the continuing professional development for optometrists and general practitioners.

Professor Tim Wess, head of Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences said:

"This is a really exciting time for the School and for our patients. The new facility means we are able to take a more collaborative approach to our work, continue to attract and train the next generation of optometric professionals, and vital funding. In addition we are able to offer more world-leading vision science researchers a state-of-the-art home from which to advance the kind of work that could change people’s lives."

Funding for the new building represents a joint investment by the University and the Science Research Investment Fund. The latter is a joint initiative between the UK Funding Councils and the Department for Innovation, University and Skills (formerly the Office of Science and Technology) to provide capital investment to strengthen the international competitiveness of the UK’s Science Base.

Speaking at the event, Cardiff University Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant said: "This twenty-one million-pound facility is the result of many years of work by colleagues and University partners. Together they have provided Wales with one of the most modern and advanced university centres for optometry, not only in the UK but worldwide. I would like to thank everyone involved for their commitment, and I would like to congratulate them on their achievement."