The National Artificial Eye Service originated in the 1914-18 war. At that time it was known as ‘The Army Spectacle Depot’. The aim of the service quickly changed from providing vision correction aids to the supply of artificial eyes for those soldiers returning injured from the front. 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 headquarters in Blackpool where the administrative offices are also situated. Teams of skilled technicians take the wax models and specifications provided by the Orbital Prosthetist (OP) and turn them into a prosthesis which matches the patient’s natural eye. 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.
Quality is of prime importance to the organisation and the production laboratory undertakes a twice yearly inspection by the British Standards Institute. As a result, the Service is ISO 9001 Quality Management certified by BSI under certificate number FM52858.
Administratively 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.