NHS England to fund Bionic Eye Surgery at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital
Five blind Manchester patients will be among the first in the
country to receive revolutionary bionic eye implants funded by the
NHS England will provide funding for further testing of the
Argus II, also known as the Bionic Eye, for ten patients with
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), an inherited disease that causes
Five of these procedures will take place at the Manchester Royal
Eye Hospital (MREH) from 2017, with the other half at Moorfields
Eye Hospital in London.
Surgeons at Manchester and Moorfields made history by delivering
the world's first trial of the Argus II bionic eye implants in RP .
MREH surgeons also performed the first ever bionic eye implant on a
patient with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in 2015.
NHS England will fund this through its Commissioning through
Evaluation (CtE) scheme, designed to gather vital evidence for
treatments that show significant promise for the future. NHS
England will assess how the Bionic Eye helps patients function with
One of the first implanting surgeons was Professor Paulo Stanga
from Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, University of Manchester and
Manchester Vision Regeneration (MVR) Lab at NIHR/Wellcome
Trust Manchester Clinical Research Facility. Prof. Stanga, who has
played a crucial role bringing the bionic eye to patients on the
NHS, says: "I'm delighted that our pioneering research has provided
the evidence to support NHS England's decision to fund the bionic
eye for the first time for patients. It surpassed all of our
expectations when we realised that one of the RP patients in
Manchester using the bionic eye could identify large letters for
the first time in his adult life."
This news comes just weeks after the Department of Health
announced a £12.5m investment into Manchester's clinical research
NIHR/Wellcome Trust Manchester Clinical Research Facility has
provided the dedicated space, specialist staff and equipment to
support the Bionic Eye studies, which demonstrated that the bionic
eye device restores a degree of visual function to patients who
have suffered complete vision loss due to RP.
"Our work also has the potential to improve the lives of
thousands of other patients with the more common condition,
age-related macular degeneration - Manchester is currently the only
site in the world to be trialing the bionic eye in AMD", added
Patients using the system, developed by American company Second
Sight Medical Products, are given an implant into their retina and
a camera mounted on a pair of glasses sends wireless signals direct
to the nerves which control sight. The signals are then 'decoded'
by the brain as flashes of light.
Grandfather-of-five from Lancashire, Keith Hayman, 68,
was one of three people who had been fitted with the bionic eye at
Manchester Eye Hospital by Professor Stanga during a trial for
Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2009. He has been blind for 25
years having been diagnosed in his 20s while working as a butcher
and was forced to give up work in 1981 when he was registered
blind. He says; "Having spent half my life in darkness, I
can now tell when my grandchildren run towards me and make out
lights twinkling on Christmas trees. When I used to go to the pub,
I would be talking to a friend, who might have walked off and I
couldn't tell and kept talking to myself. This doesn't happen
anymore because I can tell when they have gone. These little things
make all the difference to me."
Grégoire Cosendai, VP of Europe for Second Sight Medical
Products Inc, said: "Second Sight wishes to congratulate
NHS England for this decision to make this truly revolutionary and
life-changing technology available for patients. Argus II makes a
real difference to blind people. It may be, for some patients, the
difference between staying at home alone, or being able to find
your way outside. Now this treatment is to be offered free of
charge to blind patients in the UK. This is a major victory for
blind people in the UK who have supported us in our six-year
mission to fund Argus II in England."
Dr Jonathan Fielden, Director of Specialised
Commissioning and Deputy National Medical Director, NHS England
said: "This highly innovative NHS-funded procedure shows
real promise and could change lives. The NHS has given the world
medical innovations ranging from modern cataract surgery, new
vaccines and hip replacements. Now once again the NHS is at the
forefront of harnessing ground-breaking science for the benefit
patients in this country."
Procedures will take place during 2017 and patients will then be
monitored for a period of one year, during which they will be
assessed on how the implants improve their everyday lives.