Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: 'Confusion' claim as letter hints at possible future cash for eye hospital

Ministers have been accused of “total confusion” over the future of eyecare services in Edinburgh after a Scottish Government letter appeared to suggest there could be funding for a new hospital at some unspecified point in the future.
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NHS Lothian said in December it had been told the government could not fund the proposed replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion “now or in the foreseeable future”. The health board was ordered to carry out a review its eyecare provision, including dispersal of services across the region.

That sparked a public outcry and a cross-party campaign for the new eye hospital next to the Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter at Little France to go ahead.

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Now, in a letter to Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs, a senior official in the health infrastructure division has said the government recognises the importance of centres of expertise providing specialist care but repeated the argument that developments in eyecare mean more services can be provided closer to patients’ homes and insisted funding was never guaranteed for the replacement hospital.

Cross-party campaigners say the proposed new eye hospital is essentialCross-party campaigners say the proposed new eye hospital is essential
Cross-party campaigners say the proposed new eye hospital is essential

But the letter added: “It may be that in the future, once the plan for the redesign of eye services is developed, that it will be possible to include the capital funding for the re-provisioning of the Eye Pavilion in future iterations of the Infrastructure Investment Plan. However, it is important that the right service plan is in place before new infrastructure is built.”

Mr Briggs said from the outset it had been obvious there was no Plan B for how services could be delivered without a new eye hospital.

“There has been total confusion from SNP ministers on whether NHS Lothian will receive a new Eye Pavilion. What is abundantly clear is that Edinburgh and the South East of Scotland is in desperate need of a new hospital, with the current hospital no longer fit-for-purpose and growing ophthalmology waiting times.

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“NHS Lothian are not being given a fair deal by SNP ministers and whenever things go wrong the health board get blamed by ministers to deflect from their own failings.

“It is clear a new eye hospital and saving services will be a key election issue for voters across Edinburgh and East of Scotland. The SNP needs to commit to a new eye hospital for the area or face the consequences at the ballot box on May 6.”

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said it was clear the government had not committed to providing a new Eye Pavilion but the letter acknowledged the importance of centres of expertise providing specialist care.

She said: “That’s an absolutely critical phrase because a centre of excellence providing specialist care needs to be fit-for-purpose, modern and have the research facilities required.

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“Nobody is against local services being improved but that does not mean you will not need a central hospital that is a centre of expertise. NHS Lothian’s plan to put the Eye Pavilion beside the rest of its estate at Little France was part of a long-term plan.

“I hope the change of tone in the letter means the government recognises its current position is not sustainable, but I think there’s a lot of campaigning between now and getting them to actually commit to the capital funding that is needed fr the new Eye Pavilion

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