A special breaking ground celebration has been held today (Tuesday 11 July) to mark the start of construction to build Oriel, a new eye care, research and education centre in Camden.

The integrated centre will be the new home to Oriel partners: Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Charity. Bouygues UK is the leading contractor who will build the centre which is due to open in 2027.

The new centre – part of the New Hospital Programme, the biggest hospital building programme in a generation – will harness the expertise of the partners under one roof to enable closer collaborative working between clinicians and researchers. This will speed up delivery of the highest quality treatments and therapies for patients in the UK and globally.

Breaking ground is an important construction milestone which publicly marks the start of building work on site.

Guests at the event included Lord Markham CBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, key staff involved in the development and design of Oriel, NHS leaders and leadership donors who are supporting the project.

Dr Martin Kuper, Moorfields Eye Hospital chief executive, said: “We have been looking forward to this breaking ground event for a long time. It signifies we are now in the construction stage of the project to build the new home for Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to get us to this stage. This centre will support our global reputation for excellence and help us deliver outstanding care for all our patients.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, said: “Being part of breaking ground really brought home that construction of our new centre is about to start. This is a hugely exciting milestone for Oriel and a great opportunity to celebrate all the work it has taken to get to this point. Oriel will allow us to drive forward innovation to support our work in the long-term and strengthen our partnership with Moorfields to deliver real benefits for patients.”

Robert Dufton, Moorfields Eye Charity chief executive, said: “We were delighted to invite our generous leadership donors to this exciting event. It gave us an opportunity to thank them for their support. Philanthropy is a key part of the Oriel funding mix and has a vital role to secure the future of eye health on a global scale. We look forward to talking to more interested donors.”

Fabienne Viala, chair of Bouygues Construction in the United Kingdom, said: “In our construction industry, breaking ground is always a very exciting moment. It signifies a huge step forward to start building and is a real opportunity to celebrate. We are so proud to be the leading contractor for this innovative building which will be an exemplar for accessibility, tailored to the needs of patients, and designed flexibly to meet future needs.”

Health Minister Lord Markham said: “It was an honour to attend the breaking ground event to mark the start of construction to build Oriel, which is part of the biggest hospital building in a generation.

The new centre will advance eye care, research and education to deliver innovative new ways of working, with closer collaboration between clinicians and researchers, enabling quicker delivery of new treatments and therapies for patients. We continue to work closely with the NHS to improve services and Oriel is part of our commitment to build 40 new hospitals by 2030, which is now expected to be backed by over £20 billion of investment.”

Natalie Forrest, senior responsible owner of the New Hospital Programme, said: “This exciting event, which marks the start of construction for the new eye care, research and education hospital is such a momentous milestone. I am delighted to see the project move forward as part of the New Hospital Programme, which marks a step change in how we design and build new hospital facilities. This incredible state-of-the-art facility will transform eye care and health for people across the country.”

The Oriel site was previously owned by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. In February 2023, Moorfields acquired the site through an NHS-to-NHS transaction approved by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and a £300 million contract was awarded to Bouygues UK to build Oriel.

Demolition of six buildings on the Oriel site started in late February and construction of the 10-storey, 47,000 sq. m, centre has now begun on site. To see our timelapse video of demolition on the site please visit Demolition – Oriel (oriel-london.org.uk).

The new centre will be located in the heart of the Knowledge Quarter, an internationally renowned hub for science and innovation.

It is close to several NHS, commercial and charity partners as well as UCL’s Bloomsbury campus. For the second year running, UCL was named second in the world for the strength of its international research network, which is central to their mission as London’s global university.

Image by Simon Harvey

Pictured above (L-R):

  • Natalie Forrest, senior responsible owner for the New Hospital Programme
  • Professor Andrew Dick, director of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology (IoO) and Oriel senior responsible officer for IoO
  • Professor Alan Thompson, UCL Dean Faculty of Brain Sciences
  • Dr Martin Kuper, chief executive of Moorfields Eye Hospital
  • Lord Markham CBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of Health for the Department of Health and Social Care
  • Mervyn Walker, chair of Moorfields Eye Charity
  • Dr Michael Spence AC, UCL President and Provost
  • Fabienne Viala, Chair Bouygues UK
  • Robert Dufton, chief executive of Moorfields Eye Charity
  • Jon Spencer, chief operating officer and Oriel senior responsible officer at Moorfields