£100,000 donation means sight-saving tests for premature babies are now carried out in Harrogate

Posted on: Tuesday 3 Sep 2019

Diagnosing a condition affecting premature babies that if left untreated can lead to permanent blindness can now be carried out at Harrogate District Hospital, thanks to fundraising efforts for a new £100,000 high-tech retinal camera.

Premature babies are susceptible to permanent blindness if the blood vessels in the retina are insufficiently developed before birth,  where one in 10 premature babies can be affected.  This condition, called Retinopathy of Prematurity, can be cured with laser surgery if diagnosed very soon after birth.

The condition is diagnosed using a high-tech retinal camera called the RetCam3. Until now, every new-born premature baby screened during direct examination methods and had to be taken by ambulance to Leeds or Hull for checks if concerns were raised by the consultant. Any positive indication is treated in Leeds by laser surgery with a high success rate. RetCam3 can also be decisive in the diagnosis of eye cancers and non-accidental head trauma. For those affected by the condition, all follow-up appointments now take place in Harrogate rather than Leeds as before – a benefit for parents who may have other children as well.

Consultant Eye Surgeons Mr Moosa and Mr Falzon joined Harrogate District Hospital in 2015 and recognised the need for a RetCam. Soon, Amelia Walsh and Suzanne Franklin, Medical Secretaries in the Ophthalmology Department at Harrogate District Hospital, led the way with fundraising and raised over £10,000 towards the £100,000 approximate cost. They attended the Friends Big Picnic in 2018 to raise funds and met the Friends of Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity’s Chairman, Andy Wilkinson. Following the event, Andy met with Amelia and Suzanne to get full details of the project.

Within a weekend Andy had managed to raise the total committed to the fund to some £60,000 mainly thanks to a £35,000 pledge from the Fay and Ian Elliot Trust. Thereafter, significant donations from The George A Moore Foundation, Sovereign Healthcare, The Bramhope Trust, Knaresborough Relief in Need, Vinyl Sessions, High Moor Caravan Park and Knox WI along with countless other donations completed the appeal within nine months.

Thanks should also be passed to Jonathan Sugden of Spectrum UK, the distributor of the US-made machine, who negotiated a significant discount on the list price culminating in a phone call during the late-May Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon when an affordable deal was struck!

Andy Wilkinson of the Friends of Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity, said “It has been a fulfilling task for the Friends to raise this significant sum in just nine months to enable a significant advance in patient care locally; it is what the Friends are for.”

This has been the largest project the Friends have managed since the MRI Scanner appeal of 2003-5 and has re-energised the group to accept other significant projects to further improve patient care locally. These include a Reichart Response Analyser, also for Ophthalmology costing £9,920, an Innosight Ultrasound System for Antenatal and the refurbishment of the Woodlands Children’s Ward outside play area likely to cost over £50,000.