Our History

The British Council for Prevention of Blindness was founded in 1976 to promote research into ways of preventing blindness around the world. At that time there were considerable efforts being made by charities to treat those affected by blindness in the developing world but it was evident that still more needed to be done by way of prevention if the scourge of blindness were ever to be overcome. Two men – John Wilson and Eric Boulter – who were already working with charities involved with the alleviation of blindness, recognised this need and decided to set up a body with the specific object of promoting research into ways in which blindness can be prevented, particularly in the developing world. Their vision led to the formation of the British Council for Prevention of Blindness.

“Having known the enthusiastic founders of BCPB, I can safely say that they would wish to congratulate all who have been involved in the prevention of blindness over these forty years by supporting research and training on an ever-increasing scale. However their enthusiasm would ask “What next?” Looking forward, the heights BCPB has now achieved can be but the foothills of tomorrow’s achievements.” Lady Jean Wilson, a founding trustee and widow of founder Sir John Wilson, writing to us on the occasion of our 40th Anniversary in 2016.

Since BCPB began we have grown our portfolio of innovative blindness prevention projects. Below are a few examples of what we have funded over the past 40 years.

1970’s

1976/7 – The need for a specialist charity to raise funds for research into preventing blindness in the UK and overseas was recognised by the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind (comprising Sightsavers, St Dunstan’s and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.) They jointly founded the British Council for Prevention of Blindness.

1978 – £3,000 to UCH Medical School London for research into diabetic retinopathy.

1979 – £5,000 to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness towards an emergency programme in Bangladesh to train ten general medical practitioners and 30 to 40 ophthalmic auxiliaries to undertake cataract operations.

1980’s

1980 – £1,068 to Leeds General Infirmary for the purchase of inclined binocular assistant’s microscope for use in cataract surgery in young children.

1981 – £10,000 to St John Ophthalmic Hospital in East Jerusalem towards an Outreach Project to assess the prevalence of trachoma and other infectious eye diseases in the local population to initiate early treatment, prevention and education of the community.

1982 – £6,430 to support the World Health Organisation Medical Team in the Maldive Islands to set up an Eye Camp to test and treat the local population for eye disease.

1983 – £10,684 to Bristol Eye Hospital towards the cost of a pilot study to improve the storage and supply of eyes for corneal grafting.

1984 – £900 to Srina Garind Hospital in Thailand for equipment for use in the introduction and evaluation of prescriptive screening for ocular defects in young children in Thai villages.

1985 – £11,434 to St Woolos Hospital in Newport, Gwent towards the cost of a research project involving the mass screening of diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity.

1986 – £2,000 to the National Rubella Council to make 300 copies of a film to alert adult women to the risks of contracting rubella in the early months of pregnancy.

1987 – £7,000 to Chattisgargh Eye Hospital in India to fund an evaluation survey of cataract surgery in eye camps in India.

1988 – £12,500 to King’s College of Medicine London for research to identify genetic markers in diabetic retinopathy.

1989 – £2,526 to Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Kaduna, Nigeria to study the effects of Ivermectin, a treatment for river blindness.

1990’s

1990 – £9,600 to the International Centre for Eye Health London to work with the African Medical & Educational Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya to study the control of trachoma within the nomadic Masai tribes.

1991 – £37,763 to the University of Wales to investigate the cause of cataracts using isolated lens tissue.

1992 – £12,185 to the Institute of Ophthalmology London for a pilot study of the outcome of congenital cataract surgery in Southern India.

1993 – £15,550 to the Aravind Eye Hospital in India for research into childhood cataracts.

1994 – £12,867 to the Western Eye Hospital London to research the prevalence of eye disease among British Asian people.

1995 – £15,220 to Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin for research into pre-attentive visual mechanisms in glaucoma diagnosis.

1996 – £17,186 to the Institute of Ophthalmology London for a trial of chlorhexidine gel as a primary treatment for supperative keratitis in Ghana.

1997 – £22,466 to the University of Edinburgh for research into novel approaches to glucocorticoid sensitivity in disorders relating to intraocular pressure.

1998 – £49,785 to Queen’s University Belfast for research into blood retinal barrier in diabetic retinopathy.

1999 – £384,920 to the International Centre for Eye Health in London for community eye health courses in South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Colombia.

2000’s

2000 – £80,496 to Queen’s University Belfast for research into differential gene expression in retinal vascular cells.

2001 – £33,550 to the Institute of Ophthalmology London for research into pregnancy and childbirth risk factors for cataracts in women.

2002 – £3,403 to University College London for a study into retinitis pigmentosa.

2003 – £28,555 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for research into the outcome of childhood cataract surgery in developing countries.

2004 – £50,000 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for research into screening for primary angle closure glaucoma in Mongolia.

2005 – £135,978 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for a fellowship evaluating school eye screening programmes in Tanzania.

2006 – £139,679 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for a fellowship surveying the leading blinding diseases within the Nakuru district of Kenya.

2007 – £154,313 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for a fellowship comparing different ways of identifying blind children in local communities in Malawi and referring them for treatment.

2008 – £20,000 to the University of Southampton for research into age related macular degeneration.

2009 – £120,007 to Queen’s University Belfast for a fellowship looking into the genetic basis of glaucoma in India.

2010’s

2010 – £47,165 to the University of Liverpool for developing eye drops to reduce the need for corneal transplants, which are impractical in much of the developing world.

2011 – £180,005 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for a fellowship on the epidemiology and management of ocular surface squamous neoplasia in Kenya.

2012 – £59,980 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for validating the use of smartphones for the diagnosis of eye diseases in Nakuru, Kenya.

2013 – £59,570 to the University of Liverpool for research into the treatment of diabetic retinopathy in Malawi.

2014 – £14,450 to the Institute of Ophthalmology for mentorship to build research capacity in a community hospital in Tanzania.

2015 – £50,530 to Moorfields Eye Hospital London for an exploratory study to evaluate the impact of tablet computers and low-vision software on education and learning in children and young people with low vision in India and the UK.

2016 – £199,961 to the International Centre for Eye Health London for a fellowship on up-skilling ophthalmic surgeons for high quality and high volume cataract and glaucoma surgery in Sub-Saharan Africa.

2017 – £63,139 to the International Centre for Eye Health for the development and pilot testing of an Eye Module for inclusion in the curriculum of staff providing Reproductive and Child Health services in Tanzania.

2018 – £59,847.13 to Queen’s University Belfast for a cluster-randomized controlled trial of three models of school-based spectacle service delivery in India.