Freedom of the City for St. Paul’s Eye Unit

Liverpool’s St. Paul’s Eye Unit, based in the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, will be awarded Freedom of the City of Liverpool at a special ceremony this week.

On Wednesday 18 March 2015 representatives from the Eye Unit will be formally presented with the Freedom Scroll at Liverpool Town Hall in the company of guests including staff and former patients who have benefited from the knowledge and skills of those working at the unit.

Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Erica Kemp CBE said: “St. Paul’s forms an important part of the fabric of our City’s health heritage.

“It’s consistent, long-standing reputation for world class excellence in both care and research deserves to be promoted and recognised. I am delighted that St. Paul’s has been awarded Freedom of the City status.”

The ceremony is the highlight of a programme of events St. Paul’s Eye Unit is running throughout the week to mark the Freedom of the City. “Eyes Revealed” is a special exhibition where members of the public will be able to experience a wide range of interactive demonstrations designed to showcase the workings of the eye and exciting new treatments.

A special guest lecture is being given by Professor Ian Grierson from 3.30pm to 4.00pm. Places must be booked in advance and are being allocated on a first come, first-served basis. To book, please email heather.sutton@rlbuht.nhs.uk or call 0151-706-4291

At an Extraordinary Council Meeting held in January 2014 in the Town Hall, Liverpool’s first mayor, Joe Anderson expressed his agreement that St. Paul’s should receive the award in recognition of its many years outstanding work treating the people of Liverpool and beyond. A unanimous ‘yes’ vote was secured.

St. Paul’s Eye Unit’s origins date back to 1871. In 1992 it moved from Old Hall Street to its new site within the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. Now St. Paul’s provides a world renowned ophthalmic service. It has strong links with the Department of Eye and Vision Science at the University of Liverpool and is regarded globally as a centre of excellence for care, research and education. Over 100,000 patients visit St. Paul’s Eye Unit each year.

Professor Simon Harding, Chair Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, St. Paul’s Eye Unit said: “We are thrilled with this recognition which is testament to the dedication and talent of our staff today and all those who have supported and worked with St. Paul’s over the past 100 years. It is a highly prestigious accolade and one we are extremely proud to receive.”

Former Lord Mayor of Liverpool and Alderman of the City, Roger Johnston nominated St. Paul’s for the award and will be speaking at the ceremony. He has experienced St. Paul’s pioneering treatment himself.

As a Type 2 diabetic, he was invited to attend a routine eye screening three years ago held in his local GP surgery organised with the help of St. Paul’s. Shortly before retiring from his role as a long-serving Liverpool City Councillor he discovered that the test results diagnosed diabetic retinopathy – a condition involving damage to the retina which leads to blindness if left untreated. Mr Johnston was advised that if nothing was done he would lose his sight within 18 months. Amongst a range of options, he was invited to participate in a clinical trial at the Clinical Eye Research Centre. A course of injections was administered over the next year and a half to stabilise his diabetic maculaopthy and allow subsequent successful removal of cataracts from both eyes.

“The result was nothing short of amazing” says Mr Johnston.

“After the operation I remember watching the squirrels running about on Woolton Golf Course from my window and noticing just how vivid the colour of their fur was. I was also delighted to be able to spot different bird species and identify between a robin and a green finch which I couldn’t do before. Everything seemed so much brighter, more vibrant and clearer. Previously I hadn’t had the confidence to drive at night but, now that I had my sight restored, my quality of life had been completely transformed. The only downside of my new found sharp vision was that I ended up paying a big bill for re-decorating the entire house once I could see just how much needed doing!

“The staff at St. Paul’s were incredible and I really felt that I received five star treatment from world class professionals. If I hadn’t attended the screening appointment and benefited from the clinical trial I would now be blind and not a day goes by when I don’t appreciate the quality of care and treatment I was given. They thoroughly deserve to be awarded Freedom of the City.”