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Appeal for eye donors in Suffolk and Essex this World Sight Day amid cornea shortages

PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 October 2017

Health bosses are appealing for eye donors. Picture: NHS BLOOD AND TRANSPLANT

Health bosses are appealing for eye donors. Picture: NHS BLOOD AND TRANSPLANT

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West Suffolk Hospital has formed a partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant to boost donor numbers, while Essex County Hospital also backs the campaign

Health bosses are using this World Sight Day to urge people in Suffolk and Essex to agree to donating their eyes after death amid a national shortage of transplant supplies.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s eye banks, which are in Bristol and Manchester, are 21% below the level required to meet demand.

The organisation has formed partnerships with several hospitals in England, including West Suffolk, in a bid to boost donor numbers.

The trusts now have systems in place to notify NHS Blood and Transplant of all potential donors who have died in their hospital, so specialist nurses can discuss the possibility with loved ones of taking the patient’s eyes to help others.

In 2016/17, five families at West Suffolk Hospital agreed to donate their relative’s eyes.

Although the whole eye is donated, only the cornea, which is the eye’s clear outer layer, is transplanted into the recipient.

Corneas can be donated up to 24 hours after the patient’s death.

Gail Mander, NHS Blood and Transplant nurse practitioner, who works with West Suffolk Hospital, said: “Donating sight means there can be light after darkness. But too many people are spending World Sight Day unable to see their families due to a national shortage of donors.

“Our eye banks are currently well below the level we’d like to see.

“People in Suffolk can help us by saying yes to cornea donation.

“Almost anyone can donate their sight. People tell us the decision to donate brings a sense of pride and comfort.

“Please, support sight donation and help patients see what they can currently only imagine.”

Essex County Hospital, based in Colchester, is also backing World Sight Day.

Jignesh Patel, a consultant ophthalmologist based at the hospital, said: “Donating sight can enable people to see again.

“Corneal transplants help restore the sight of our patients and it’s only possible thanks to the generosity of donors.

“We need more people in north east Essex to help with the national shortage of donors by agreeing to donate their eyes.”

In 2016/17, 35 people had corneal transplants at Essex County Hospital.

Even if a deceased person is on the donor register, families still have to give their consent in order for the transplants to go ahead.

People are encouraged to join the donor register via www.organdonation.nhs.uk and to also make their loved ones aware of their wishes.

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