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Bright future in sight as fundraising target is reached for new surgical eye simulator

July 2, 2024

The future for ophthalmology patients and trainee surgeons is looking great after University Hospitals Dorset NHS Charity’s funding goal has been met to fund a new state-of-the-art surgical eye simulator for Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

The Eye Sim will train the next generation of surgeons across Wessex at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital’s Eye Unit. This enhanced equipment will ensure our hospital leads the way in providing safe, effective sight-saving operations for patients.

Purchasing the new and innovative Eye Sim, costing £201,000, is a clear investment for the future of eye surgery for everybody across Dorset and Wessex.

Surgery for common eye conditions, like cataracts and glaucoma, can be very complicated. They require comprehensive ophthalmic specialist training, which takes seven years.

Before concluding their specialist training, surgeons are expected to carry out 300 complete cataract procedures. Experienced surgeons can complete the highly technical procedure in 20 minutes. There are also significant risks of complications, making it a steep learning curve for surgeons.

Using the simulator is beneficial because trainee surgeons will learn to operate in a small cube of 5x5x5mm and account for the natural movement of the eye. Learning these skills on a simulator before operating on patients is crucial to ensure patient safety. It also frees up theatre time for those awaiting sight-saving surgeries rather than for training purposes.

Generous supporters across the region and beyond have helped University Hospitals Dorset NHS Charity reach the full fundraising target. This includes three notable donations from the Friends of the Bournemouth Eye Unit, who donated a phenomenal £49,986 towards the Eye Sim, The Roger Raymond Charitable Trust who kindly donated £20,000 and The Valentine Charitable Trust who donated £10,000 to ensuring the next generation of surgeons receive the best training at our hospitals.

Trustee of Friends of the Eye Unit and head orthoptist and optometry service manager at University Hospitals Dorset, Julie Dowdney said: “Friends of Bournemouth Eye Unit were delighted to be able to contribute to this essential training equipment. This charity has worked extremely hard to support the Eye Unit and has contributed to many large equipment purchases, or entirely funded these from the funds raised.

“This will help future ophthalmologists learn in a safe, less pressured environment and enhance the skill set of future doctors.”

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust consultant ophthalmologist and ophthalmic surgeon, James Kersey, has seen firsthand the change in training for eye surgery over the last 20 years.

He said: “Originally, all training for cataract surgery was done with the consent of patients in stages, and it took some time for trainees to finally complete a whole cataract operation.

“The eye simulator has allowed our trainees here at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital Eye Unit to increase their training time allowing them to practice eye surgery outside of the theatre environment.

“This improved training environment has allowed us to upskill our trainees faster’ meaning that when they come to operate on patients for the first time, they already have an excellent grasp of the skills required and can concentrate on more complex elements of the surgery.”

Because of the kind support from supporters in our local community, we are able to help take our hospitals into the future and give patients the best outlook possible.