Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre
Need for a new hospital was evident before the outbreak of the 2nd World War. In 1939, a site had been agreed near the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and funds in excess of £3 million was put aside. The 1939-45 war prevented progress. Post-war new plans were made the site was again confirmed in 1946 and the hope expressed that ‘State Control’ in 1948 would not hinder the development, but it did!
Several plans were agreed and abandoned. Several had reached detailed planning stages with completion dates announced, before being abruptly cancelled to start again from scratch. There were several attempts to close the hospital and replace it with the staff scattered in small district hospitals. These would not include a research or academic facilities. There were several attempts to close the Birmingham & Midland Eye Hospital completely and open small departments in all the district hospitals. This would seriously affect the work that the hospital had been doing in advancing ophthalmology. Fortunately the staff of the BMEH had been united in proposing that the service in Birmingham be provided by a major unit with three smaller peripheral units, but the staffing would be integrated.
Finally, after 112 years at Church Street (1884 – 1996), the hospital moved to its present location on Dudley Road, and was once more renamed as the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre. The new centre included an accident and emergency department, outpatient suites, four operating theatres, ophthalmic imaging, visual function department, optometry department, orthoptic department, day surgery unit, an ophthalmic in-patient ward and an Academic Unit of the University of Birmingham. The Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre was officially opened by HRH Prince Andrew on Friday, 28th June 1996.
The ornate, early Victorian red brick building at Church Street in the old city centre, remained disused until 2000, when it underwent a luxurious makeover to become home to the 4 star Hotel du Vin & Bistro, but it still bares the iconic stone work that marked the Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital.
BMEC is currently one of the largest eye centres in Europe and is constantly developing to meet the demands of our ever changing society. Our main focus is the treatment and care of NHS patients with a wide range of eye problems from common complaints like cataracts to rare conditions which need treatments not available elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The centre offers a comprehensive and seamless ophthalmic service that is internationally renowned. The centre receives tertiary referral cases from throughout the Midlands and further a field. BMEC works on a Hub and Spoke Principle, BMEC being the hub, the spokes being Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Russells Hall Hospital and Solihull Hospital.