A Fylde coast specialist NHS service received a Royal seal of approval.

The Duke of Gloucester unveils at plaque at the national artificial eye service in Blackpool
The Duke of Gloucester unveils at plaque at the national artificial eye service in Blackpool
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Duke enjoys an eye-opening visit to service

The National Artificial Eye Service (NAES), based on Bristol Avenue, Bispham, played host to a visit from HRH The Duke of Gloucester to celebrate its 100th birthday.

The NAES dates back to the First World War and was originally known as ‘The Army Spectacle Depot’.

However, as injured soldiers returned from the front the focus changed to the provision of artificial eyes for wounded and blinded men.

Until shortly after the Second World War the provision of artificial eyes was only available to service personnel and war pensioners, but with the arrival of the National Health Act in 1948, the specialised treatment involved was extended to all qualifying NHS patients.

Manufacturing of artificial eyes takes place in the Blackpool HQ.

Teams of technicians take the wax models and specifications provided by the Orbital Prosthetist (OP) and turn them into an artificial eye which matches the patient’s natural eye.

Helen Lever, operational manager for the NAES, said: “We were proud to welcome HRH The Duke of Gloucester.

“He toured the production laboratory and met members of staff before unveiling a commemorative plaque.

“He was really interested to see what we did here and we were all proud to see the service recognised by a member of the Royal family.’’

The Duke is the Queen’s cousin and 24th in line to the throne.

The Mayor of Blackpool, Coun Peter Callow, also attended the event.

He said: “The work that people do here is absolutely wonderful and the people of Blackpool should be proud of this facility.

“I’ve been really impressed by what I have seen and it was great to hear from staff who do such a fantastic job who make such a difference to people’s lives.’’

The NAES has 18 centres around the country staffed by specialist OP Staff. From these the prosthetic staff visit outreach clinics in order to provide a service as near as possible to where patients live or work.

Artificial eyes are also manufactured for patients in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland who have their own prosthetic services.

The service is managed by the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. This enables the necessary financial, clinical, and governance controls to be applied and ensures the service is answerable through the NHS to the Secretary of State.

Funding is supplied centrally by NHS England via specialist commissioning arrangements and covers all eligible NHS patients resident in England.