Eye Retrieval Service


Eye Retrieval Service - An approach to better quality, safety and probity of ocular tissue in UK - Author; Dr Irena Reynolds – Donation Manager for Eye Retrieval Service

The NHSBT Eye Retrieval Service (ERS) initiative commenced in 2000 with the main aim of increasing the level of eye donation within UK in a controlled way that is compliant with the European Tissue and Cells Directive and UK legislation and regulatory framework. The core principle of the initiative is to maximise eye donation from a small number of centres with significant donation potential. The centres are based in Acute Hospitals Trusts, large enough to have the capacity to deliver the specified 350 donations per annum, which in turn would satisfy a significant proportion of the UK ocular tissue requirements. The ERS are commissioned by NHSBT, who provides both strategic and financial support along with professional leadership and performance management.

Over the past eleven years the scheme has expanded from an initial four centres to the current ten that deliver around 60% of all ocular tissue used in UK. Effectively ERS have become the main source of ocular tissue processed in the NHSBT funded Eye Banks in Bristol and Manchester, the further 40% being supplied by other hospitals not under the ERS umbrella.

The strategic reasons behind ERS are to:

  • Increase a number of corneal donations
  • Comply with changes in the regulatory framework for tissue collection and processing (Human Tissue Act, EU Directive etc)
  • Better control over: quality, probity and safety of ocular tissue
  • Improvement in initiation of the donation process and collection of tissue; (Setting up hospital structures, training programs, better information flow for updates and alerts).
  • Promote and support eye donation by working within local community and collaborating with other stakeholders that may have input in the ocular tissue donation within their region.

The ERS host trusts are given annual funding on a 1 year service contract. The trusts have a contractual responsibility to develop and sustain hospital structures that will deliver the target measured by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and to support the regulatory framework. The teams are fully embedded within the host trusts that provide day-to-day managerial and clinical support.

The ERS is performance and quality driven which is expressed by the KPIs that among others are defined as; retrieving 350 corneas per annum with 95% of tissue reaching the eye bank ready for immediate processing and 100% of enucleations taking place within 24h from the time of death.

The centres based in the following Trusts are currently part of the UK Eye Retrieval Service:

  1. Bolton Hospitals HNS Trust
  2. University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
  3. West of Scotland NHS
  4. Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust
  5. Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust
  6. Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust
  7. Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  8. Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation
  9. Trust Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust
  10. The Merseyside Eye Retrieval Consortium (Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals, Aintree University Hospital, Knowsley Hospitals and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital)

The recent Ocular Tissue Pathway Service Review, undertaken by NHSBT, recognised that ERS initiative is of great value to the ocular tissue donation in UK. It is the main factor that in recent years has achieved an improved balance between demand and supply of clinically suitable high quality corneas across the UK.

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