Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: Sunderland is to get a new eye hospital, so why not Scotland's capital?

It's a centre of excellence with an ageing building which treats eye patients from a wide area – and now it is to get a new multi-million pound, state-of-the-art home. But news of plans for an iconic new eye hospital in Sunderland has prompted questions over why Edinburgh, with a similar story, is not getting the same solution.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 7:00 am

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust unveiled its plans for a £36 million new eye hospital last week.

But the Scottish Government has decided to scrap the proposed new hospital next to the Royal Infirmary at Little France to replace Edinburgh’s 50-year-old Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street which has been declared no longer fit for purpose.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “It's ironic that at a time when there's investment in a new-build eye hospital south of the border the Scottish Government is willing to see Edinburgh lose ours.

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“There is a fear Edinburgh could potentially become the only major city not to have an eye hospital and this news about Sunderland reinforces that argument and the need for ministers to think again on this.

“The clock is ticking on this election and ministers seem to be keeping their heads down rather than genuinely engaging with people in the city.

“I think they believe they can get through the election and then do what they like, but I think they will get a nasty surprise because for people in Edinburgh this is a key issue – they want the next parliament to fund a replacement hospital.”

The Scottish Government has urged NHS Lothian to disperse eyecare services across the region, arguing in many cases patients can now be treated closer to their homes by community-based optometrists. In Sunderland, all clinical services provided from the current hospital will transfer to the new site and there are plans to expand specialist ophthalmology services in the community through a series of satellite hubs as well.

Plans were being drawn up for a new eye hospital at Little France

Mr Briggs said: “There is concern the Scottish Government approach, where they're suggesting services will be put into the community and that hospital will not be replaced, is a bit of an experiment.”

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said constituents who had been in touch with her were worried about accessibility to emergency services when they needed them, which could be during the day or the middle of the night.

“Sure, you need outreach work in communities, which is hugely important in preventative work on loss of eyesight, but that is no substitute for a centre excellence, a place where people come for emergencies and a place people can have operations that save or protect their sight.

“The Eye Pavilion has been needing to be replaced for a long time. It’s absolutely vital the SNP government listens to our constituents and acts on the need for a new Eye Pavilion.”

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Cole-Hamilton said: "I'm sure the people of Sunderland are very deserving but they're no more deserving than people living in Scotland's capital city."

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