Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: council unites to throw its weight behind demand for new eye hospital

All parties on the city council have put aside political differences to issue a unanimous call for a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 7:00 am
The council wants a meeting with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman about replacing the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion Pic Greg Macvean

The leaders of all the political groups are to sign a letter to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman requesting an urgent meeting to restore the required funding form Scottish Government to allow plans for a new eye hospital to go ahead.

The Eye Pavilion, which dates back to 1969, has been declared not fit for purpose, but ministers told NHS Lothian in December the government could no longer fund the proposed new hospital scheduled to be built at Little France and suggested instead services should be dispersed across he region, including to a new elective care centre in Livingston.

Council leader Adam McVey said it was important the council presented a united front on the issue.

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“This is hugely important to the city,” he said. “It is important we get a replacement that is fit for purpose and geographically sensible.”

Two separate motions were originally tabled at Thursday’s full council meeting, one by the Tories and one by the SNP-Labour coalition, but after open debate and further discussion behind the scenes, a composite motion was arrived at which secured unanimous support.

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said: “We have a very special facility in the Eye Pavilion and we need to keep it in Edinburgh. We should be saying to the Scottish Government: ‘You made a promise in 2018, you should deliver on that promise’.”

Labour’s Lezley Marion Cameron said the Eye Pavilion was a world-renowned centre of excellence.

“In terms of accessibility and equality of services, it is vital people have access that is affordable and easy. If we have had any trouble with our eyesight and you need acute treatment there is no time to spare – you need to get to that hospital quickly and efficiently.”

And several councillors spoke about their own gratitude for the availability of the Eye Pavilion for themselves or family members when they needed urgent help.

Labour's Mandy Watt said she had received treatment to save the sight in her right eye.

But she had had to go to Livingston for some of the treatment. "I cannot thank the team there enough for what they did for me, but it was extremely expensive to get to that appointment.

“Mine was a one-off appointment. If people are having to make weekly, monthly appointments and pay up to £100 for the round trips to Livingston it's completely impossible to do that.”

Fellow Labour councillor Karen Doran said she had had two eye operations in recent years, but had to go through to the west of Scotland because of long waiting lists. She said other people there for similar operations were very distressed because of the travel. "Having to get buses and trains back after such severe operations is ludicrous."

And the SNP’s Amy McNeese-Mechan said she had wakened in the middle of the night in pain and temporarily blinded. "Due to the fact we have these services in the city I was able to get treatment and I had ongoing treatment. I couldn't have driven even if I had access to a vehicle. We as a city should be unified in supporting retaining this excellent service and building on it."

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