Fifty years of the Friends at Moorfields

The Friends of Moorfields celebrates 50 years of fundraising for the world famous eye hospital this May.

Established in the swinging sixties, the Friends charity is marking its golden anniversary year with a series of events for its volunteers and hospital staff and a targeted £160,000 fundraising campaign to support three major projects: 

  • Two years’ funding for an eye clinic liaison officer  for the Northwick Park and Ealing satellite sites  to help coordinate support, advice and counselling to people adapting to severe eye conditions and sight loss. 
  • A  programme to increase the employment of visually impaired people at Moorfields through the provision of specialist technology and improved advertising and
  • The development of an arts programme for patients including special events, brightening up the hospital walls with artwork and occasional music. 

Since it was first launched in May 1963 at a public meeting followed by a wine and cheese party,  the charity has raised millions of pounds for Moorfields Eye Hospital which has gone to support research, clinical equipment and facilities to improve patient care, services and the overall environment of the hospital for staff, patients and the public.

In its inaugural year, the Friends raised £2,300 which would be worth £38,700 today. In 2012 alone, the Friends provided over £150,000 for a variety of projects including: over £40,000 for Moorfields children’s hospital – the Richard Desmond Children’s Eye Centre -  £30,950 for a project to provide patients with personal information online and £35,000 for a scanning laser for St George’s satellite which consultant ophthalmologist Gus Gazzard is using in a major research programme into treatments for glaucoma - one of the world’s leading causes of eye disease in the over 50s.

Today, volunteers for the Friends of Moorfields fulfil a variety of roles for the hospital, not all of them to do with fundraising. There is for example a team of 50 who travel to the main hospital in City Road, London, each week to work in the Friends shop, man the Information Desk in the main hospital and the children’s centre, work with clinics in City Road and at Moorfields satellites, run a shop trolley in clinic areas and in the wards,  produce a quarterly magazine and assist in the Friends office and at other events and projects at the hospital. 

There is also a team of volunteers called Floor Marshalls who walk around looking for anyone who needs help … and of course there is  another brilliant team of 80 volunteers who give a couple of hours of their time regularly to collect at London stations or help out with book and jewellery sales and do other kinds of fundraising. Membership of the Friends is around the 750 mark.

In contrast in 1963 the volunteer activities included reading to and writing letters for patients, and escorting patients to and from the hospital; providing mobile telephones (on trolleys!), bed tables, a talking book library and many other amenities.

Liz Fisher manager of the Friends of Moorfields said: ”Without the tremendous contribution of the many volunteers who have donated their time to sustain the Friends in all their activities over the years we would not be here today. It’s a great achievement. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, but in 1978 the surgeons’ wives were invited to help on a voluntary basis -  how times have changed!

“To thank our volunteers for their very great support, the Friends have decided to mix social events and fundraising. We have already held a successful Moorfields’ Got Talent event which showcased some of Moorfields staff singing, comedy and musical abilities. We are also holding a river boat cruise on the Thames on May 8 for our members and their friends. We are hoping to hold an early evening event at the Shangri-la at the Shard in the autumn.  Please check our website for further information –

Notes to editors

Moorfields’ Friends -  Facts - The Friends of Moorfields stated objectives when it was inaugurated in 1963  were: “The raising of money to be spent on increasing the comfort of patients and the nursing staff, outside the allocation provided by the Ministry of Health, and the recruitment of volunteers to help in the many ways which are of infinite importance to the happiness and general welfare of the patients, many of whom for shorter or longer periods are unable to see.” The Friends still exist to carry out the same objectives.

The annual subscription in 1963 was 2 shillings and 6 pence (£2.00 today)!  The Friends also run a lottery which currently has 207 participants so has good odds of winning – 3 prizes, 4 times a year!  Contact the Friends if you wish to take part.

Moorfields is one of the world’s leading eye hospitals, providing expertise in clinical care, research and education. We have provided excellence in eye care for more than 200 years and we continue to be at the forefront of new breakthroughs and developments.  We are an integral part of one of the UK’s first academic health science centres, UCL Partners, and were one of the first NHS organisations to achieve foundation trust status in 2004.  

We treat the entire range of eye diseases, from common complaints to rare conditions which require treatments not available anywhere else in the UK. We dealt with more than 475,000 patient visits in 2011/12 at our main hospital base in London’s City Road and at 19 other sites in and around the capital, enabling us to provide expert care closer to patients’ homes.

With our research partners at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, we run one of the largest ophthalmic research programmes in the world and have the highest measure of scientific productivity and impact in the world for our research activity. 

For further information, please visit Friends of Moorfields

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