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New equipment to Royal Infirmary Scotland

Specsavers fundraiser brings new equipment to Royal Infirmary to help Scotland’s premature and sick babies

Cutting-edge equipment for examining premature and sick babies is now in place at the Neonatal Unit in the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh thanks to a £73,000 fundraiser by Specsavers practices across Scotland.


Teams from across the business raised the money after being moved by the story of colleague Michael O’Kane whose daughter Sophie (now 9) was born at 24 weeks weighing just 1lb 15oz.

They donated the funds to the Simpsons Special Care Babies (SSCB) charity to buy a piece of equipment called a PanoCam for the Neonatal Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Premature babies are at high risk of retinopathy which can cause blindness – they need their eyes checked regularly due to rapid changes in organ development (in what would have been the last three months of pregnancy) which can put them under a lot of stress – the PanoCam provides a much quicker and safer way to examine them.

Alongside the fundraiser, Specsavers’ Scottish stores also backed Bliss Scotland as their Charity of the Year to further support Scotland’s premature babies and their families – so the charity’s ambassador Lady Sarra Hoy (whose son Callum was born at 29 weeks back in 2014) came along to the Royal Infirmary to celebrate the success of the campaign.

Michael O’Kane, a Specsavers optician and practice director in Morningside and Cameron Toll, says: ‘There were times when I feared Sophie wouldn’t pull through but she recovered thanks to incredible support from the Neonatal Unit, and I will forever be grateful. This fundraiser is testament to what can be achieved when you club together to make a difference, and myself and all my colleagues across Scotland feel immensely proud to have helped bring this equipment to the hospital.’

He joined Lady Sarra Hoy, a lawyer by profession and wife of cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy, at the Neonatal Unit where they were shown the equipment by Professor Ben Stenson, Consultant Neonatologist at the Neonatal Unit, NHS Lothian and SSCB representative.

Lady Sarra Hoy says: ‘As a parent on the neonatal unit, it’s so frightening to see your baby undergo lots of invasive procedures which can be really stressful for them when they’re so tiny. This equipment – together with the support that Bliss is providing to families thanks to Specsavers’ incredible fundraising – will make such a difference to babies and their families.’

Staff at the unit are currently being trained in using the PanoCam which, as well as being used to examine premature babies, can also be used to detect ocular tumours in older children.

Mercedes Perez-Botella, Directory of Midwifery, NHS Lothian, says: ‘We are delighted that the PanoCam will soon be operational at the Simpson Centre. Retinopathy is a prevalent problem for babies who are born prematurely, and we hope that this new equipment will help our neonatal doctors to promptly identify any deterioration in the baby’s retina and act accordingly to prevent damage.

‘I am sure parents will also welcome this addition to our resources as it will provide them with extra reassurance about the high level of care their babies will get while in the Neonatal Unit.

‘We would like to sincerely thank Specsavers and Simpsons Special Care Babies for fundraising for this new equipment, we know that this will make a real difference to families within the Neonatal Unit.’

The funds to purchase the equipment were raised by stores from all over the country who donated £2 from optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans (which helps to spot serious eye conditions, including glaucoma, up to four years earlier than traditional methods) and from earwax removals during a two-month period.

MED Surgical, the company which supplies the Visunex PanoCam Pro, usually charge £113,000 but generously contributed £40,000 to make Specsavers’ fundraising target of £73k more attainable.

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