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New eye care facility opens

21 October 2015

eye clinic opening
Left-Right: First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones; Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan; Professor Marcela Votruba; Dame Mary Perkins; Doug Perkins

New optometry facility to boost community care

A new eye-care facility to help drive up numbers of patients who can be seen by community-based optometrists has officially been opened.

Based in the University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, the new Clinical and Educational Research Facility will provide enhanced learning, training and education opportunities for eye-care professionals in more specialist skills, such as glaucoma, management of age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, and emergency eye-care.

Poor eye health is a common and growing problem in Wales because of the aging population. Cases of sight loss are set to increase by 22% by 2020 and double by 2050.

The investment by the University will provide 12 new clinics, a break-out teaching area and state-of-the-art video slit lamp and imaging equipment. It will also offer training areas for eye care professionals to gain more hands-on clinical experience to enable them to provide more key services to patients in a primary care setting.

This will mean that patients who would otherwise attend an eye hospital for their eye care services will be able to access more clinical services at their community optometrist.

Professor Marcela Votruba, Head of the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, said: “The establishment of the Clinical Education and Research Facility is in response to even further demand for learning opportunities for eye care professionals who are working in primary care and looking for invaluable practical clinical training.

“This investment will significantly enhance our support for the professional development of practicing eye-care professionals across Wales, the UK and further afield.  It will also cement our leading position in optometric postgraduate education and provide a unique environment for high-quality clinical research across optometry, vision science and ophthalmology.”

The facility will also serve to enhance clinical research and facilitate the recruitment of patients to clinical research programmes in the School.

Clinics will also offer dedicated space and equipment to examine patients who take part in research into the causes and effects of eye diseases.

This will result in the School attracting more clinical research trials, which in turn means that more patients will have the opportunity to take part in research and benefit from the innovations flowing from this.

Since 2002, Welsh Government has supported the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences to deliver a program of training and accreditation to more than 500 optometrists across Wales through the Welsh Eye Care Service. The innovative model of community eye care in Wales was developed in response to the need for optometrists to increasingly expand the services they offer in communities to help reduce the need for hospital and GP visits. 

The resultant eye care services are more developed in Wales than most other parts of the world and so eye care professionals look to Wales as the experts.

Speaking at the opening of the centre, First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones, said: “I am really pleased to be opening this fantastic new eye-care facility at Cardiff University.  This centre will help us deliver better NHS care for the people of Wales through enhanced professional development opportunities for our optometric workforce, and world-beating research.  I wish them every success for the future.”

Supporting the event were Cardiff University alumni Dame Mary Perkins (DBE) and her husband Doug Perkins, co-founders of the British optician chain, Specsavers. Doug Perkins said: “This new initiative is absolutely marvellous – a real win-win for opticians looking to develop their skills and to the public who stand to benefit from a more skilled optometric workforce.”