A NEW eye unit that will treat up to 14,000 patients a year at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, has been opened by Rishi.
The longstanding champion of the hospital shared the honour of cutting the ribbon to officially mark the occasion with a special guest.
He was joined at the official opening by the hospital’s longest-serving member of staff – 80-year-old Doreen Eaton.
Rishi paid tribute to Mrs Eaton’s “amazing service to the hospital and the local community over so many years.”
The opening follows extensive renovation work to transform the former Allerton Ward into a dedicated eye unit.
The Allerton Eye Unit offers all of the services previously provided by the ophthalmology team from the hospital’s main outpatients department, but on a much bigger scale.
Clinics will increase from eight a week to as many as 30 a week which means that hundreds more patients will be able to have their eye outpatients appointments on the Northallerton site.
Once social distancing rules are relaxed, the unit will welcome more than 14,000 patients a year through its doors.
Rishi said: “It is great to see this investment at the Friarage Hospital which will result in more treatments being delivered here at our local hospital and fewer journeys to James Cook for patients.
“It is just one of a number of recent developments at the hospital which I know have been welcomed by patients who want to be treated here at the Friarage.”
The development work and purchase of additional equipment has been supported by The Friends of the Friarage and a special plaque has been placed on the unit in recognition of their contribution.
Clinical director for ophthalmology Phil Severn said: “We are really excited to be taking over the unit. This development is fantastic news for patients across the Hambleton and Richmondshire area.
“It means we will be able to treat a lot more patients on the Friarage site, reducing the need for people to travel as well as reducing waiting times.”
Rishi said it was most appropriate that Mr Eaton should be present at the opening of the new unit.
“Mrs Eaton has seen a lot of changes at the hospital during her long career so it was lovely that she could be present to help at this next stage in the hospital’s progress to a brighter future.”
Mrs Eaton started work at the hospital in 1956 and completed her training as a State Registered Nurse in 1961.
She worked in many different departments and after qualifying became a Sister in the outpatients and casualty teams.
She retired once aged 60 but returned to work and then retired again when she was 65. She joined NHS Professionals which supplies temporary staff to the NHS and until Covid-19 struck was still working regular shifts in the outpatients department. Excluding short breaks to have a family, Mr Eaton has worked at the hospital for almost 60 years.