Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: Scottish Government accused of 'muddled message' on future of eyecare services

The Scottish Government has been accused of “washing its hands” of the future provision of eyecare services in and around the Capital after withdrawing funding for a new eye hospital.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 7:00 am
The Scottish Government will no longer fund a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion Pic Greg Macvean

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said ministers had pulled the plug on a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion but had failed to spell out what was going to happen next, leaving patients and professionals frustrated about the uncertain future.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told NHS Lothian in December that the government would no longer fund the planned new hospital – despite signing up to the project in 2018 – and instead urged services should be dispersed across the region and asked the health board to draw up a plan. She has since said NHS Lothian should plan on retaining the Eye Pavilion despite it being declared “not fit for purpose” seven years ago.

Mr Briggs said: "We have this muddled message from the government that they want to retain the current building which is condemned and they don't appear to be giving any money towards its refurbishment or replacement and no-one seems to know what is happening.

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"What is the vision for eye services? The government seems to have washed its hands of the whole situation, having taken the money away and left the health board in an unacceptable position where they're going to have to cobble together a new plan which I just don't think will be acceptable to people.

"Cross party, politicians have become really frustrated by the total lack of information from ministers and them thinking they know best when a lot of people are expressing concerns and we're just being told to go away and shut up.

"At the heart of this are some pretty vulnerable people who aren't being told what's happening to their services and professionals who will also be frustrated that the fantastic award-winning service which has been developed is now in limbo.

"All roads lead back to the fact we will need a replacement Eye Pavilion at some point and the sooner ministers understand that and are honest about that the better for everybody."

There is cross-party support for calls for a government rethink on its refusal to fund a new eye hospital. Former Eye Pavilion director Dr Hector Chawla has warned that expecting people to travel long distances for treatment could lead to more people losing their sight.

And Mr Briggs has secured more than 1,400 signatures on a petition calling on the government to restore funding for a replacement for the Eye Pavilion.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is nothing muddled in our approach. The Scottish Government acknowledges the need to capitalise on our current assets and have committed to doubling investment in repairs and maintenance over the next five years. We have also asked NHS Lothian to carry out a review of its eye care services and to reconsider how they should be delivered, we remain committed to working with the board to support this and protect specialised eye services for the city and the wider region.”

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