Published: 23/01/2003, Volume II3, No. 2839 Page 8

A new independent specialist eye hospital, to be developed and run by a group of NHS consultants and thought to be the first of its kind in this country, opened last week.

Yorkshire Eye Hospital, which has capacity to perform 5,000 operations a year, has been set up by 20 ophthalmologists working in the county's major cities.

The daycare hospital at Apperley Bridge, between Leeds and Bradford, will initially offer a comprehensive range of treatments to private patients referred by GPs and optometrists. But its consultants - all shareholders - are expected to offer the service to help to reduce NHS waiting lists.

'The hospital does not depend on the NHS for its survival, ' said consultant surgeon Mitch Menage, one of three founding directors. 'But we have created a facility which the NHS would be pleased to use and we will be very competitive.'

The idea of an independent hospital was borne out of 'frustration with the present service', he said.

'At the moment, none of the equipment we have here is available in the private sector in the region, which means private patients attend NHS hospitals for certain investigations, ' said Mr Menage.

The hospital, originally a vicarage and later a corporate headquarters converted at a cost of£2.5m, has four consultation rooms and two operating theatres.

The consultants, from Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and Harrogate, will treat adults and children for a wide range of conditions, including cataracts, corneal and retinal diseases, glaucoma and diabetic and agerelated macular degeneration.

'We are aiming to provide a regional centre of excellence and we know that many people are watching this development with interest, ' said consultant surgeon and hospital chair Bruce Noble. 'It seems likely it will become a model for other schemes.'