Health officials at both West Suffolk Hospital and Essex County Hospital used this year's World Sight Day to raise awareness of the shortage of corneas at UK eye banks. Both hospitals hope this campaign will encourage locals to take the brave step to becoming corneal donors.
A recent report showed that the NHS Blood and Transplant's eye banks are almost a quarter below the number of corneas needed to address national demand for corneal transplantations. The two major eye banks in the UK are located in the cities of Bristol and Manchester.
NHS Blood and Transplant officially teamed up with West Suffolk Hospital to help encourage more people to become donors. Essex County Hospital is not working directly with NHS Blood and Transplant on its campaign.
There are many NHS hospitals that can take corneas from deceased patients as long as they get family approval. Nurses are now instructed to ask relatives of non-donors whether or not they would consider donating their deceased family member's corneas.
Doctors only have a 24-hour window to take the corneas out of a deceased patient's eyes. After these 24 hours, the corneas can't be used for successful transplants.
Between 2016 and 2017, only five families at West Suffolk Hospital gave to OK to donate their deceased relative's corneas. With more information on the national shortage of corneas, the NHS hopes more people will at least let their family know about their intention to become a donor.
Gail Mander, a nurse at NHS Blood and Transplant, told journalists that most people who decide to become a donor are filled with a sense of pride. She urged everyone in Suffolk to "support sight donation and help patients see what they can currently only imagine."
As mentioned above, Essex County Hospital will also step up its efforts to raise awareness of cornea donation, but it isn't working directly with the NHS Blood and Transplant. Between 2016 and 2017, the Essex County Hospital has been quite busy with corneal transplants. Specifically, the hospital has performed 35 successful corneal transplants.
Jignesh Patel, a consultant ophthalmologist in Essex, called on members of northeast Essex to sign up on the list of corneal donors. He went on to say, "Corneal transplants help restore the sight of our patients and it's only possible thanks to the generosity of donors."
Luckily for UK residents, the NHS makes it extremely easy to become a cornea donor. All you have to do is follow the link www.organdonation.nhs.uk and change your status to a donor. You can also change your status by calling the number 0300 123 2323.
Corneal transplants are relatively safe procedures and are used to treat many blinding diseases. Keratoconus is now the number one disease that requires a corneal transplant in the UK.
Founded in 2005, the NHS Blood and Transplant is an official part of the UK's Department of Health. Anyone can contact this organization using the phone number listed above or through the Text Relay number 18001 0300 1232323. NHS Blood and Transplant is headquartered in the Oak House on Reeds Crescent, Watford, Hertfordshire