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Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology look to relocate

10 April 2013

Following detailed analysis – with support from clinical planning experts and cost consultants - the Moorfields Eye Hospital Board decided at its recent meeting on 21 March that Moorfields‘ and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology's long term interests would best be served by moving.

Moorfields Eye Hospital has been considering carefully the options for rebuilding the City Road facilities, focusing on two principal choices: rebuilding the hospital on the City Road site itself or relocating with the Institute of Ophthalmology to a site in the Euston/King’s Cross area.

The Board discussed this in November 2011, and at that time concluded that although there were many significant advantages to moving – particularly to the Euston/King’s Cross area - the costs of doing so meant that this was unlikely to be affordable. However, because the choice was quite finely balanced we decided that we should keep under consideration the option of moving to the Euston/King’s Cross area and spend further time doing more detailed testing of our planning assumptions before coming to a final decision. This is the work that we have been doing over the last year, led by Project Director Tim Fry.

An important element in the recent decision-making process has been that expansion of the Institute’s facilities will be required if our ambitions are to be realised. The NHS Foundation Trust has also completed a more detailed analysis of its own space requirements in a new building, as well as the costs of moving off-site rather than rebuilding at City Road, and these suggest that moving to a new location is in fact likely to be less expensive than staying at City Road. This is in large part because redevelopment of the City Road site, while continuing to provide services from the site, would require them to find - and pay for - a significant amount of decant accommodation over an extended period of time. This would not only be extremely expensive but would also be very disruptive for patients, visitors and staff, and would also take a great deal longer to achieve.

We are now going to focus all of our efforts on creating a new building from scratch in partnership with the Hospital that reflects our desire to create a fully integrated and flexible modern facility, enabling us to bring together - for the first time ever - patient-focused ophthalmic research, education and healthcare in a truly coherent way. We hope thereby to be able to attract the world’s best ophthalmic scientists, educators and clinicians and significantly enhance our capacity and capability to undertake world-beating research - translating that research rapidly into treatments for patient benefit - while providing the highest quality clinical care in a modern, supportive environment for both patients and staff.

This will be an ambitious project, the overall cost of which we expect to be no less than £300 million. An ambitious fundraising campaign, jointly between Moorfields and UCL, to meet a portion of the costs is soon to be launched. The UCL Development and Alumni Relations team is working closely with colleagues at the Moorfields Eye Charity and will be able to tell a powerful story to potential donors about the sight that will be saved because of the research and clinical teams working even more closely together.

Although the timescales for such a project are inevitably uncertain at this stage of its planning, we are hoping to be in our new building within about six years.

Professor Philip Luthert,  Director of UCL Institute of Ophthalmology