Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: Blind and partially-sighted campaigners appeal for rethink over refusal to fund new hospital
Nearly 200 blind and partially-sighted people from Edinburgh and the Lothians have come together to appeal to the Scottish Government to change its mind and fund a new eye hospital in the Capital.
They say the government’s decision not to pay for a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion and disperse services to Livingston and across the region would mean major disruption, anxiety and travel problems for patients as well as a loss of professional expertise and damage to Edinburgh’s standing as a leading research centre.
And they have launched a campaign, Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion (KEEP) to protect specialist eyecare services in the Lothians.
In a letter to the Evening News, signed by 179 people, the group says: "This decision to fragment services will leave Edinburgh as the only major population centre in the UK without local acute eyecare services; will damage Edinburgh’s reputation as a pioneering leading specialist research centre for eyecare; lose clinical expertise; will cause major disruption and anxiety for many people with sight loss across Eastern Scotland about the future of their eye treatments and will require patients to make complicated journeys not just across the Lothians but to other health boards, to receive specialist care. The fear is that our eyecare Services will be undermined not strengthened by this move. These concerns are shared by leading ophthalmologists.“We call upon the Scottish Government to listen to the citizens of the Lothians, reverse their decision, fund a new Eye Pavilion, and ensure that Edinburgh continues to have a world class Eye Care service long into the 21st century.”
Sylvia Paton, one of the group’s organisers, said although she lives in Corstorphine she would still need two buses to get to Livingston. She has had complex eye problems all her life but says her sight is now deteriorating at an increasing rate.
"The fact they are not funding the new hospital is quite scary. If services are dispersed it’s a disaster for people with visual impairment because it means they will have to find their way to different places when they already have difficulties navigating where they are going.
"There’s a huge level of anxiety about it – people wonder how they will manage to get to wherever the services are going to be.”
The group came together through self-help groups, Facegroup groups and other networks.
Mrs Paton said they were surprised at how many people had signed the letter – and the names are still coming in.
"We wanted to put together this letter to let the Scottish Government see the strength of feeling and what a disaster it is to even consider moving part of the clinical services out to somewhere like Livingston.
"It’s a teaching hospital so if they fragment the services it means that teaching facility will be equally fragmented and just won’t exist. There’s lots and lots of research done through the hospital as well which has made a huge difference to eyecare services.
"And it’s also about people having somewhere to go in an emergency. If they take it away there’s no emergency services.
"People are angry about it and they’re also disappointed that it seems to be a service which is very much overlooked and way way down the priority list.”