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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Belfast optician invests £270,000 in business to combat preventable blindness in older people

Ahead of World Glaucoma Week, which runs from March 6-12, Belfast optician, Geoff McConville has revealed an investment of £270,000 into his business to help detect the ‘silent thief of sight’ in more people across Northern Ireland.

The businessman, whose practice is based on Belfast’s Chichester Street, has pumped funds into the latest technology that supports the earliest possible diagnosis of glaucoma - a common eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged and one of the leading causes of preventable blindness.

The investment makes his business a centre of excellence for glaucoma detection here.

Glaucoma can lead to blindness if not treated in time and can affect people of all ages but is most common in adults in their 70s and 80s.

Other statistics show that at least 50%* of people affected with glaucoma are missed and without treatment irreversible damage to vision occurs, however the world-class piece of equipment known as the Kowa 3d Camera, is a sophisticated software analysis tool that creates incredibly detailed stereoscopic 3D images delivered through to greatly enhance diagnosis of sight threatening conditions including glaucoma.

Geoff McConville is the only private practice on the island of Ireland to have the Kowa camera.

Bolstering his recent investment in tech, which he has funded over the last 7 years, has been the recruitment of two respected eye specialists, Professor Colin Willoughby and Cliodhna McGrady.

Professor Colin Willoughby, Professor of Ophthalmology in Ulster University and a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust where he practices in cataract surgery and glaucoma has joined the team at Geoff McConville Opticians.

The highly regarded eye specialist has trained in Liverpool and Canada and has an active laboratory programme which uses genomic information and technologies to understand ocular biology and mechanisms, in health and disease states. He has also published over 120 articles and reviews, cited over 5000 times.

Professor Willoughby will see patients once a month at Geoff McConville’s by appointment and or referral.

He said: “I am delighted to join the team at Geoff McConville and look forward to supporting patients with glaucoma with the assistance of some of the amazing technology Geoff has invested in. This level of equipment coupled with staff expertise makes this practice one of the most sophisticated in Northern Ireland.”

Specialist Optometrist Cliodhna McGrady is an Ulster University graduate with a specialism in Medical Retina. She has worked in optometry practices in Spain and London and is undertaking a Postgraduate Certificate in Independent Prescribing and a Professional Certificate in Glaucoma.

She said: “It is a pleasure to join the team at Geoff McConville’s and I look forward to playing a role in the early detection of glaucoma here and supporting the diagnosis and care of many other eye conditions.

“It’s apt that my appointment at the practice comes just as our sector marks World Glaucoma Week - a unique initiative that puts a spotlight on glaucoma as the leading cause of preventable irreversible blindness worldwide. The prompt diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma can prevent needless vision impairment. Our aim as a practice with the most advanced technology is to catch glaucoma earlier than ever here and I am honoured to be part of that drive.”

Geoff, who now also offers virtual triaging for clients, is one of the leading opticians in Northern Ireland, having innovated and invested during Covid-19 to allow patients access to a range of tests and treatments that can be forwarded straight to eye surgeons where necessary.

The City University London Graduate and former Boots Area Manager has worked in the industry for over 30 years. He has also been selected, on many occasions, to provide prosthetic eyeware to the entertainment industry including hit shows including The Fall, Game of Thrones and The Frankenstein Chronicles.

Speaking about his investment, Geoff said: “Health service waiting lists are growing longer and longer and as a result many people are missing out on timely diagnoses so it was important for us to be able to accommodate that demand for quicker testing, especially for a condition like glaucoma that can be prevented when caught early.

“This is a highly sophisticated piece of equipment that many practices aspire to have. It’s the dream toy for those in the profession and I’m delighted to offer it to our patients.

"We aspire to offer the best in practice for our clients to ensure their vision is the best it can be no matter what stage of life they are in.”

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