Call for independent consultation on future of Edinburgh's eye hospital after Scottish Government said it would not fund replacement

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Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is being urged to pause the Scottish Government’s decision not to fund a new eye hospital for Edinburgh so an independent consultation can take place.

Despite an initial agreement, the government has told NHS Lothian it cannot fund the planned replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion now or in the foreseeable future and suggests services could be dispersed to other hospitals, including a new elective care centre being built in Livingston.

But the news has sparked a public outcry, with reaction on social media calling the decision “a big mistake” and “a disgrace” and insisting: “This place has to be saved.”

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Now Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs has called for an independent consultation on the future of the Eye Pavilion.

In a letter to Ms Freeman, he says: “It is regrettable the Scottish Government does not think they are in a position to fund a new eye hospital in the foreseeable future.

"I am very concerned about the implications this decision has on care received by patients in NHS Lothian, with already extremely long waiting times for routine treatments.

“Please would you consider holding your decision not to fund a new hospital and undertake an independent consultation on options for eye treatment services in NHS Lothian.”

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The current building in Chalmers Street was deemed unfit in 2015 and Mr Briggs said it would need huge investment if it was not going to be replaced.

The Princes Alexandra Eye Pavilion was deemed unfit in 2015The Princes Alexandra Eye Pavilion was deemed unfit in 2015
The Princes Alexandra Eye Pavilion was deemed unfit in 2015

He pointed to work ordered at the cancer care centre at the Western General after a new centre was postponed until 2030.

He said: "The cancer centre is being patched up at a cost of £22 million – we’re probably looking at that sort of ballpark figure for the Eye Pavilion. That’s a bit of a wasted opportunity if we’re not going to look towards what was going to be a £45m new centre.”

He said the timing of the decision during the pandemic meant it was not getting the scrutiny it needed.

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He added: "There is growing concern this decision has been taken without any consultation whatsoever. I hope Jeane Freeman will agree to pause this now and have a proper independent consultation with the council and patient groups into what is needed.

"If it’s a financial decision – and it feels that’s what at the heart of this – then they need to explain that. A lot of people on social media seem to think it’s because of the Sick Kids delay, that the government have basically said to Lothian ‘We have bailed you out on that, you’re not having any more’.”

The Scottish Government said the work still to be done on redesigning eye services in Lothian meant it could not be included in the infrastructure investment plan published in September.

A spokesperson said: “As an alternative to a full replacement of the Eye Pavilion, we suggested more work be done to develop a more regional – rather than centralised – model of care, which is increasingly how modern eye services are delivered.

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"This includes redesigning pathways to enable patients to access care closer to home, and using the new elective centre in Livingston to carry out additional eye surgery to increase capacity in the region.”

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