For years Andrew O’Connor battled with the painful eye condition uveitis.

Suffering from blurred vision and floaters in his eyes, Andrew struggled to play snooker and eventually was forced to give up his job as a welder.

“All my world came tumbling down. When you go to the dentist you get a tooth pulled, it heals and you either get a new tooth or do without but with your eyes it cut me up for a lot of years,” says the 62-year-old from Bradford.

As well as taking regular medication, Andrew has undergone three or four operations to ease the condition which can also cause a painful red eye, sensitivity to light, loss of peripheral vision and blurred vision.

More recently, he was put forward by a medical team at Bradford Royal Infirmary for a pioneering procedure which, he hopes, will bring life-changing benefits.

Andrew is the first patient outside America, and the first in Europe, to participate in a new global trial – the FAI-001 (fluosinolene acetonide implant/insert made by the pSivida Corporation).

Launched this month, the trial tests the success of a slow-release steroid implant measuring one fifth of a grain of rice and injected into the eye of a patient suffering from inflammation by a surgeon.

The implant lasts three years and researchers will compare its success to treating eye patients with more conventional treatments currently available, such as steroid tablets and immunosuppressants, which carry the risk of side effects including diabetes, osteoporosis, infection, liver damage and bone marrow suppression.

“It’s a worldwide study and they have selected Bradford. As a site we have showed an interest, but Bradford was selected as one of the European sites because we have a good record in research and in managing to enrol patients,” says Helen Devonport, consultant ophthalmologist and Bradford’s principal investigator on the FAI-001 trial.

“For patients with inflammation of the eye – persistent inflammation over weeks and months can cause swelling at the back of the eye which results in loss of vision if left untreated.

“Many of these patients currently have to take steroid tablets and/or immunosuppressants – which are the best treatments we have available at the minute, but they are not without side affects.

“This new implant – if successful – will ensure that patients will stop taking this daily medication and won’t have to contend with side effects should these arise.”

Andrew is one of two patients from Bradford involved in the trial. He says while he appreciates his eye condition met the criteria for the treatment he feels ‘privileged and thankful’ to be involved.

Globally 120 patients are being recruited from across six countries. Currently 18 people have been recruited so far worldwide.

Bradford’s selection for the trial is testimony to its research record. “The local department have the experience of new things; we keep up to date; we are aware of what is going on; what is new,” says Helen.

Consultant surgeon, Mr Faruque Ghanchi, recently appointed national NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) lead for research trials involving commercial firms, says it was ‘fantastic’ news for the hospital, its patients and Bradford.

“We have come a long way in Bradford in research and it is really fascinating to see the first patient recruited here in Bradford which is the first patient outside the US in this study,” he says, acknowledging the fact it can only be achieved with patients willing to volunteer.

Mr Faruque says as well as helping to improve patients’ quality of life through not having to take steroid tablets and avoiding other potential health problems, it is also good for the health economy as it avoids any unnecessary hospital visits and treatments.

Research nurse Nichola Hawes, who is involved in pre-screening patients as potential candidates for the trial, says: “It is exciting and it gets our name on the map and it is good for our patients to offer them treatments they may otherwise not be able to get hold of.”