The NHS is to pay for 10 people to be implanted with a “bionic eye”, a pioneering technology that can restore some sight to those who have been blind for years.

Only a handful of people have undergone surgery in trials so far to equip them to use Argus II, which employs a camera mounted in a pair of glasses and a tiny computer to relay signals directly to the nerves controlling sight. The decision to fund the first 10 NHS patients to be given the bionic eye could pave the way for the life-changing technology to enter the mainstream.

Those who will get the equipment can currently see nothing more than the difference between daylight and darkness. The system allows the brain to decode flashes of light, so that they can learn to see movement.

Raymond Flynn, 80, at Manchester Royal Infirmary in July during trials of the ‘bionic eye’. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA