Liverpool clinician who helped prevent blindness in thousands worldwide receives MBE

Professor Simon Harding is currently working on major projects to provide eye screening to 200 million people.

Professor Simon Harding, who has been awarded an MBE in the 2022 new year honours list. Image: LUHFT

A Liverpool ophthalmologist whose pioneering treatment helped combat “the biggest cause of blindness in the western world” has been rewarded for his services to patients.

Simon Harding, consultant ophthalmologist at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT), received an MBE in the Queen’s 2022 new years honours list in recognition of his life’s work.

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Professor Harding, who lives in Cressington and describes his work as a “passion” rather than a job, helped save the sight of thousands of people around the world and established the first diabetic eye screening programme in the UK.

He has worked at LUHFT’s St Paul’s Eye Unit since 1981 and over the last 30 years he has been instrumental in a number of significant research and clinical breakthroughs for patients.

Professor Harding established St Paul’s Eye Unit’s Clinical Eye Research Centre (CERC) in 2014 to conduct world-leading research.

Since opening, the CERC has hosted over 70 pioneering trials, and is now involved in every major ophthalmic trial being undertaken in Europe.

Global impact

Along with the diabetic eye screening programme which is now replicated in over 20 countries around the world, Professor Harding is currently working with the Chinese Medical Association and the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe to help establish diabetic eye screening for the 140 million people with diabetes in China, and 60 million in Europe.

Professor Harding also introduced the first effective treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the UK, which is now widely available throughout the world.

AMD is the greatest cause of blindness in the western world, and affects around 600,000 people in the UK alone, according to LUHFT.

In Malawi, since the 1990s, Professor Harding has led the groundbreaking development of pioneering techniques to accurately diagnose cerebral malaria.

Simon Harding outside Chiradzulu District Hospital in Southern Malawi with colleague, Phillip Burgess. Image: LUHFT

The disease kills around 500,000 children each year in Sub-Saharan Africa causing severe brain swelling and the rapid onset of a coma.

Sir David Dalton, interim chief executive of LUHFT, said Professor Harding’s “brilliant work” supporting LUHFT ophthalmology patients, as well as work nationally and internationally, was “truly deserving” of the MBE.

‘For me it hasn’t really been a job but a passion’

Professor Harding said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to receive an MBE. It’s been an honour to work in St Paul’s and support patients by introducing pioneering treatments based on cutting-edge research.

“This not only benefits our patients here in Liverpool but also around the world. For me it hasn’t really been a job but a passion, and to be recognised in this way is truly remarkable.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do my work without the tremendous support of an incredible team of friends and colleagues. And of course, the research I’ve led couldn’t have happened without the thousands of people who have volunteered to join our research studies.”