Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion has cost over £1.3 million to maintain since being declared not fit for purpose

More than £1.3 million has been spent maintaining Edinburgh's Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion since the building was deemed no longer fit for purpose in 2014.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 12:30 pm

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And with the new eye hospital to replace it not due to open until 2026, the fear is lots more money will have to be poured into a building which has no future.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said the figures for maintenance costs, which he obtained under freedom of information, underlined the urgency of getting the new hospital up and running as soon as possible.

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Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street Picture: Greg Macvean

The Scottish Government agreed in principle to a replacement for the Eye Pavilion in 2018 but shocked NHS Lothian in December 2020 by saying it would no longer fund it. After a public outcry, there was a U-turn during the Holyrood election campaign in May and Nicola Sturgeon promised to fund a replacement after all. But campaigners are disappointed at the timetable which envisages construction starting in June 2024, with the hospital due for completion in September 2026, opening to patients three months later.

The information on maintenance costs released by NHS Lothian shows a total of £1,316,330 spent between 2015 and 2021.

And looking ahead, the health board said: “The only backlog maintenance works planned for the this year is the upgrade of the fire alarm system at £36,000. The evaluation for the maintenance work for next year and subsequent years is due to commence in January, concluding in April.”

Mr Briggs said: “The fact so much money has needed to be spent on the old hospital just goes to show how past its sell-by date as a hospital site it is.

“Some of the maintenance has to take place – the upgrade of the fire alarm system, for example, is something that they will have to do as long as patients and staff are using the building.

“But it is frustrating we have seen the delay to the new hospital, caused by the potential cancellation, and that's why I would like to see it made a national priority to get it moving forward and if possible look at an earlier completion date.

“There seems to be what looks like a long period of planning before any construction and there might be an opportunity to speed it up and make construction a real priority.

“Ministers in the meantime have to be quite clear how they are going to help NHS Lothian to keep the old Eye Pavilion funded properly.

“We are the lowest-funded health board. They don’t have money to spare on anything and the fact they’re putting money into an old building does feel as if we are wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Sylvia Paton, of the Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion campaign, said it would be a mistake to spend large sums on the current building.

"It needs to be kept at a point where it is still usable, but throwing good money after bad is the wrong thing to do.

"If they built the new hospital sooner they wouldn’t have to spend more money on maintenance for a building that is unfit for purpose and they could put that money towards the new hospital.

"Had they gone ahead with it and not withdrawn the money they would already have been building it.”

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