A wide-ranging consultation has found “overall support” for the move of Moorfields Eye Hospital to St Pancras, though some have voiced caution over ensuring accessibility at the new site is up to scratch.
The project to move the institution from its venerable home at City Road received 4,600 contributions through different channels of feedback, with most feeling the new site was an opportunity to create a “world class centre of excellence”.
Around eight per cent of responses voiced “anxiety” over the move, citing concerns over travel, disruption to current services and loss of heritage, though there seems broad agreement that City Road is a “rabbit warren” and hard to navigate.
Nick Strouthidis, medical director at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is a strong clinical case for the proposed move of City Road services.
“Only by listening to and learning from people who currently use or who may need our services in the future can we be truly confident of reaching the best decisions.”
Other reasons the move found support from consultees were the ability to meet future demand from population growth and an ageing population, as well as St Pancras’ proximity to two mainline stations.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) supports the move, but joined in concerns over the accessibility of St Pancras; while the new site is close to a transport hub, some people worry that the “busy nature” of King’s Cross could be a problem.
The RNIB said: “Concerns over the ‘last half a mile’ journey from local transport hubs have been a constant theme raised by blind and partially sighted people.
“As stated in the public consultation meetings RNIB stresses that for this to be truly successful in the context of accessibility it is critical Transport for London and Camden Borough Council become committed stakeholders.
“We are pleased that Moorfields share this view and recognises the need for these key partners to become fully and meaningfully engaged in the design and build.”
Islington council leader Richard Watts (Lab, Tollington) has voiced his “sadness” at the plan to move Moorfields to Camden, and has stressed the need to continue delivering a high quality of care during and after the transition.
Cllr Watts said: “Islington Council has long valued having Moorfields Eye Hospital as part of the fabric of our borough. We recognise the Trust’s contribution to both world leading eye care, research and education, but also for serving the needs of our borough, providing our local residents with access to high quality clinical eye care.
“We understand and appreciate the clinical case for change and the rationale for the move, specifically the limitations of the current site in terms of clinical redevelopment, and how this hampers the Trust’s ability and ambition to offer the highest quality care and an improved, 21st-century experience for service users and carers.
“We will want to be assured on behalf of Islington residents, if the proposed move goes ahead, there is no detrimental impact on the quality, range or accessibility of services currently available to them.
“If the benefits of the new site and what it offers in terms of quality and particularly improved patient experience, as set out in the consultation document, are realised, then this will indeed be welcome.”
The borough leader went on to seek clarity on how travel and accessibility to the new site will be maintained for Islington residents, and added: “We also look forward to continuing to work constructively with the trust with respect to the re-development of the City Road site.”