Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: SNP pledges replacement but MSPs still have questions
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But Capital MSPs campaigning for a new eye hospital at Little France were guarded in their welcome for the commitment and called for more details of what was being promised.
The manifesto for the May 6 elections says the £10bn investment aims is to renew the NHS and adds: “That will include replacing the east of Scotland regional cancer centre at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh; and the Edinburgh Eye Pavilion.”
Plans for a new eye hospital close to the Royal Infirmary to replace the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street were approved in principle in 2018. But in December the Scottish Government sparked a public outcry when it told NHS Lothian it would not fund the project “now or in the foreseeable future” and said the health board should look at dispersing services across the region.
Last week Nicola Sturgeon said if the SNP were re-elected it would “renew” the Eye Pavilion, prompting fears she planned only a refurbishment of the existing building which was declared unfit for purpose in 2014. The following day she said the SNP would fund a new hospital if that was what NHS Lothian proposed.
The manifesto does not add that qualification, but Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said he still had concerns.
“’Replacement’ could still mean dispersing services and a cheap replacement,” he said. “Having this debate during an election means it’s difficult to really see what the health board and government are now talking about, compared to what they want voters to think.
“I hope Nicola Sturgeon is signing up to what we had, which was a replacement for the eye pavilion at Little France and that project at the scale it was going to be to protect not only services but also the research and looking forward to future demands. This is a centre of excellence for the whole of the East of Scotland.
“If that's their commitment I welcome it, but we have come a very long way in three weeks from having the money withdrawn to them now flying the flag for a new hospital.
"I think trust is at an incredibly low level for the SNP around this issue. We need to make sure this is delivered and is not just an election pledge which can easily be unpicked on the other side of people casting their votes.”
Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said if the SNP was giving an unequivocal guarantee of a new hospital at Little France that was great. But he said: “I’m not really willing to give them much credit for having cancelled a replacement Eye Pavilion and then within a matter of months putting it in their manifesto.”
He said the SNP’s overall investment claims rang “a little bit hollow” because NHS Lothian had the lowest funding per head for both revenue and capital of any health board in Scotland.We need a lot more clarification of what is meant and what will be delivered and when.