Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: Public meeting hears patients voice fears over scrapping of new hospital

Patients have voiced their fears about how they will be affected by the scrapping of plans for a new eye hospital in Edinburgh as a cross-party group of MSPs pledged work together to press for the project to go ahead.

The Scottish Government has said it will not fund a replacement for Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion   Pic Greg Macvean
The Scottish Government has said it will not fund a replacement for Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion Pic Greg Macvean

A virtual public meeting also heard warnings from sight-loss charities about the impact on research if the Scottish Government stuck to its decision not to fund the proposed hospital due to be built at Little France next to the BioQuarter.

The meeting, hosted by Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, heard from patient Sylvia Paton, who said she had multiple conditions and the plan to disperse the current eyecare services would mean travel problems.

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"If I have to go to a cataract clinic in Livingston but a glaucoma clinic through in the Golden Jubilee and a cornea clinic at some other centre, I may well find that too difficult.

"But it will also impact on people's other health, particularly their mental health, so that makes taking this away a very false economy."

And Joan Kerr, a patient at the Eye Pavilion for 60 years, said she was concerned about more responsibility being handed to community optometrists.

She said: "They have already said specialist treatment my be centralised and patients will have to travel and that their diagnosis and their follow-ups would be done locally, which will put pressure on local optometrists.

"I don't know how other people feel – I'm happy to go to the optometrist just for a regular check up, but for my eye condition I would not be happy with the expertise they have."

Mark O'Donnell, chief executive of Sight Scotland, told the meeting the original business case for a new hospital, approved in principle in 2018, was largely based on the international-level opportunities presented by siting a state-of-the-art new hospital at the BioQuarter where there were existing and planned research facilities for neuroscience and genetics. That co-location would attract trainees, provide the critical mass for clinical trials and also offer opportunities to commercialise research with direct payback to the NHS.

“That's an additional reason why this could be a short-sighted decision - it's missing out on an economic opportunity as well as not being the right thing for patients.”

MSPs who took part in the meeting said they would work together for the new hospital to go ahead and urged people to lobby candidates in the May elections.

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Labour’s Sarah Boyack said the government’s statements failed to answer people’s concerns. “This is a really big issue in terms of our health service and the quality of care people get.”

Tory Miles Briggs said: “I don't think the SNP realised this would become such a big issue. We need to make sure that whoever is elected to serve in the next parliament deliver the finances which Lothian needs.”

Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was the biggest topic in his in-box after vaccinations. And he urged people to make it an election issue. “Your vote is your power,” he said.

And Green Alison Johnstone said there was no evidence to back the government’s position. “It smacks of short-termism and a desperate need to save cash – and perhaps a misguided belief this was a facility which could be picked on and done away with quietly.”

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