Eye experts develop UK's first injection 'conveyor belt' for AMD patients

Professor Andrew LoteryEye experts in Southampton have developed the UK’s first ‘conveyor belt’ system to give patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) quicker access to sight-saving injections. 

The £185,000 suite, which sees four open treatment bays replace one closed consulting room, will quadruple the number of patients able to be treated in a single session.

AMD is a leading cause of blindness in the elderly and occurs when the cells of the macula become damaged and stop working, causing a loss of central vision. 

Although there is not currently a cure or treatment for the most common form of the condition, known as dry AMD, wet macular degeneration can be stabilised or improved using a new class of drugs administered by injection called anti-VEGF agents. 

Previously, the 1,500 patients who attend Southampton General Hospital’s eye unit for monthly injections would sit in the waiting area before making their way to a single consulting room. 

Under the new system, four patients will be taken directly to the four treatment bays, given an injection, escorted away and immediately replaced by the next patient as a consultant moves along the chain. 

“By having one doctor navigating around four treatment rooms, a patient will always be ready for an injection, so there will be the ability to increase the number of injections given per session,” said Professor Andrew Lotery, a consultant ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital.  

“The rate limiting step with the current set-up is moving elderly patients in and out of a single room as this limits the number of injections we can give to around ten per session where, potentially, we could progress to 40 per session.” 

Prof Lotery, who brought the innovation to the UK following a visit to Ireland, where a similar system had been introduced by ophthalmologist Mr Stephen Beatty, added: “By introducing what is effectively an injection conveyor belt, we will greatly improve capacity and reduce waiting times for access to this sight-saving treatment which, consequently, will improve outcomes for this patient group.” 

The new injection suite, which was funded by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, the League of Friends of Southampton’s eye unit, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the Gift of Sight Appeal, will be officially opened by Dame Mary Fagan, the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2pm.

Posted on Monday 1 July 2013