Moorfields and UCL open pop-up NHS eye care hub

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London (UCL) have opened a new pop-up diagnostic hub at Brent Cross shopping centre in London.

The eye care hub is located in a former retail space, and the initiative is part of a research collaboration with UCL. The aim of the pop-ups is to help people to be seen closer to their own homes and provide a convenient way for patients to access diagnostic eye care.

The new eye clinic has been designed by a team of UCL architects and scientists, which is led by Professor Paul Foster of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre [BRC] at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, as part of a new research project which is focused on ‘enhancing the future delivery of UK and global healthcare’.

Once they have entered the hub, patients will have a series of ‘high-tech eye tests’ in an environment that ‘takes inspiration from high-efficiency commercial settings’, such as automotive and aerospace manufacturing. Patients will be socially distanced, have fewer interactions and spend less time indoors, with the goal of reducing the chance of transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses.

Tests will be done rapidly, aiming to be completed within 45 minutes or less, before results are individually reviewed online by consultants and their teams. Patients will receive letters detailing the outcome or results of their tests, with some offered a video or phone appointment to discuss. Patients will only be asked to attend a follow-up hospital visit if something requires ‘urgent or in-person attention’.

The pop-up clinic can also be reconfigured using UCL-designed moveable ‘smart’ walls, and through floating electrical and data ‘umbilical cords’. It’s hoped that this flexibility will lead to the most ‘time-efficient and cost-effective layout for patient throughput’.

An innovative ‘eye-pod’ will also be studied, and will involve patients sitting in a ‘secure, light- and sound-controlled environment’ and being rotated towards tests on different pieces of equipment.

Researchers will use high power computing to ‘analyse and optimise’ both the patient pathways and centre layout. 

It’s hoped that, in the future, these types of ‘diagnostic centres’ could be deployed rapidly, including during a pandemic and the subsequent recovery from it, or alternatively used for early phase trials. The possibility is also raised that they could be further applied to other healthcare specialties, such as cancer and cardiac screening.

Louisa Wickham, Medical Director at Moorfields, said: “As well as providing an innovative new way to assess and monitor patient’s eyes, we hope the research work at Brent Cross will allow us to see even more patients. As diagnostic hubs are adopted more widely across the NHS, this has the potential to help the NHS to reduce waiting lists.”

Dr Hari Jayaram, NIHR Moorfields BRC, added: “We hope this bespoke design will end the need for waiting rooms, further reduce the time patients spend in a clinic, while also building in social distancing measures.

“The hubs’ movable, flexible and sustainable nature also means they could be rapidly deployed and expanded to help to reduce ongoing NHS backlogs and boost capacity in the event of a future pandemic.”

Project lead, Professor Paul Foster, NIHR Moorfields BRC, commented: “This important innovative eye clinic, builds on the decade of research that led to the earlier Moorfields’ diagnostic hubs.

“Through rigorous research, patient feedback and expert evaluation, we aim to provide data on how to create outpatient diagnostic hubs that are user-friendly, time efficient and socially distanced. This work will help define the principles that will shape healthcare in the UK and globally for the next 50 years.”