Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion needs £2.3m maintenance as patients wait for new hospital

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Health bosses have identified £2.3 million of maintenance work needed on Edinburgh's Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, which is having to be kept open until the promised replacement hospital is ready.

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Problems include cracking, leaks, water damage, windows needing replaced and heating systems which have reached the end of their economic life.

The current building was declared not fit for purpose in 2014. A new eye hospital was agreed in principle in 2018, but the Scottish Government said in December 2020 it would no longer fund it, then U-turned during last year's Holyrood elections. The outline business case for the project has now been approved, but the latest NHS Lothian report suggested the timetable had already slipped by six months, with the hospital not expected to be operational until June 2027.

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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs used Freedom of Information legislation to obtain a long list of maintenance issues with the current Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street and the associated costs. He said it now looked as if increasing amounts of money would have to be spent on maintaining the existing building until the new one at Little France, close to the Royal Infirmary, was ready.

The list of maintenance issues included the observation: "Roof covering has failed in a number of areas and has been patched repaired, with water pooling throughout. Allow for full replacement. Update: repairs have been successful and no issues with leaks and area is being monitored."

Mr Briggs said: "Taxpayers money is continuously being spent to try to prop up an old building which is way beyond its sell-by date or its functional use.”

The government plan to abandon the project sparked a wave of protests from members of the public, health professionals and politicians, leading to the change of heart.

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Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street.   Picture: Greg MacveanPrincess Alexandria Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street.   Picture: Greg Macvean
Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street. Picture: Greg Macvean

But patients and others were disappointed at the long wait envisaged for the new building when the timetable emerged in September last year, showing construction starting in June 2024, with the hospital not due for completion until September 2026 and becoming operational three months later in December 2026. However, a report to the NHS Lothian board last month projected an even longer wait, saying construction was due to start in January 2025, with the hospital’s operational date June 2027.

Mr Briggs said: "I think there is growing frustration, across the parties, that the Scottish Government has not given this project the priority it needs. They obviously wanted to stop us having a replacement at one point. We need to see leadership on this and we haven't seen it yet."

He said he feared the £2.3m maintenance bill would rise if the government did not make the new hospital priority.

"We're going to see more and more money, which should be spent on other things in the NHS, going on patching up the old Eye Pavilion.

"If they had stuck to the original plan and not tried to cancel the whole thing, the new hospital would have been ready much quicker and this money would have to be spent."

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