PATIENTS can be treated closer to home after a state-of-the-art eye scanner has been unveiled.

The Friarage Hospital in Northallerton has installed a £153,000 Heidelberg machine, which was donated by the Friends of the Friarage.

It is hoped the new scanner will speed up diagnosis and save patients having to travel to other hospitals.

Kay Henderson, ophthalmic associate practitioner manager, believes it has revolutionised the way staff work.

She said: “Patients are much happier as they don’t have to travel further afield, especially those who cannot drive because they are older or having dilation drops as part of their treatment.

“The Heidelberg is a pleasure to use and the scans and images it produces are really impressive. It’s just amazing what you can see on the camera.”

It uses an imaging technique called optical coherence tomography to scan the back of the eye, producing detailed images that enables consultants to investigate different layers of the retina.

Advanced features show up abnormalities that would not be visible to the naked eye and will help diagnose conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye problems at the earliest stage possible.

It performs accurate scans of optic discs in the eye, meaning consultants can see how far conditions such as glaucoma have progressed.

The machine can also be used for cornea scans at the front of the eye and for fluorescein angiograms – where fluorescent dye is injected into the bloodstream to highlight the blood vessels in the back of the eye so they can be photographed or, in this case, seen on video.

Dr Upendra Somasundram, co-chairman of the Friends of the Friarage, said: "We are committed to supporting the development of a comprehensive ophthalmology department.

“The Heidelberg machine costing £153,000 and the patient management system costing £25,000 are the first two instalments which we are delighted to donate and we will fundraise for other equipment as required."

Ophthalmologist Philip Severn added: “The Friarage Heidelberg will be a great asset to the ophthalmology department. It has functions that are far superior to any we have used before across the Trust.”