Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: MSP accuses Scottish Government of kicking issue into touch till after election

The Scottish Government has been accused of trying to kick the issue of a new eye hospital for Edinburgh into touch until after the election.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 7:00 am
The Scottish Government has said it will not fund a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion Pic Greg Macvean

Ministers’ decision not to fund a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion despite signing up for the project in 2018 has caused a public outcry and prompted cross-party calls for a rethink.

But Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says a series of parliamentary answers from Health Secretary Jeane Freeman have increased her concerns about the government’s plans.

Ms Boyack asked why the government had cancelled funding for the replacement hospital and if it would publish a timeline for the decision and what consultation had taken place with clinicians and service users.

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Ms Freeman replied that the government had never approved funding for the relocation of the Eye Pavilion and when it invited NHS Lothian in February 2018 to submit an outline business case it made clear it was not making a commitment to fund the construction of a new eye hospital.

Other questions tabled by Ms Boyack included what the government’s position was on a new centre of excellence for eye treatment in Edinburgh and what investment would be required for the dispersal of services, as now suggested by the government.

Ms Freeman replied: "The Scottish Government has asked NHS Lothian to carry out a review of the way in which it delivers its eye care services and to look again at what it can do with its existing estate, including the existing Eye Pavilion, and whether it can adapt the designs for the new Elective Care Centre in Livingston to increase its ophthalmic surgery capacity.”

She said the government recognised the importance of centres of expertise, but developments in eyecare meant more services could be provided closer to patients’ homes. "NHS Lothian’s review should consider both these points and how best to use new technology.”

Ms Boyack said: “These are astonishing responses which beg more questions than they answer – and worrying they look like the government is doubling down on refusing to replace the Eye Pavilion.

“We know they approved the proposal to proceed to an outline business case, but there is no information provided as to why they did not trust that initial decision which has led NHS Lothian to effectively waste over £1m on that bit of the project alone. There are no answers to any of these issues about the timeline.

“NHS Lothian told MSPs and MPs last month they would be consulting on what next given they had been knocked back, yet in these answers the Health Secretary is very specific on the terms of what they should consult on.

“It doubles down on the move to Livingston and cuts right across the principle of accessible services which is the issue that patients and clinicians and third sector organisations have been raising with MSPs.

“We've all had constituents get in touch telling us they've had to come into the Eye Pavilion in the middle of the night and that saved their eyesight and without that specialist treatment they would have lost their sight – that's what is worrying people.“I think this is an attempt by the SNP government to kick the issue in touch until after the election.”

Ms Boyack has launched a petition on the issue.

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