Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Campaigners voice 'extreme concern' over possible delay

Campaigners say they are “extremely concerned” about a possible six-month slippage in the timetable for Edinburgh’s new eye hospital.

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The promised replacement for the no-longer-fit-for-purpose Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion was scheduled to completed by September 2026 with an “operational” date of December 2026.

But a report to the NHS Lothian board last week week gave an operational date of June 2027.

Sylvia Paton, chair of the Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion (KEEP) campaign, said: “This is the first push-back already and we've not got underway yet. I’m very, very disappointed. It's really bad.”

The Scottish Government agreed to the new hospital in principle in 2018, but said said in December 2020 it would no longer fund it. An outcry from the public and medical professionals resulted in a U-turn during last year’s Holyrood election and approval of the project’s outline business case in September.

The campaigners were unhappy when the timetable was outlined the same month, showing full business case (FBC) approval and start of construction in June 2024 with the hospital finished and ready by the end of 2026. They felt the project should have been completed more quickly.

One report to the health board last week week seemed to confirm the timetable as given, but another said FBC approval was expected in January 2025 and the hospital would be operational in June 2027.

The new hospital will be built close to the Royal Infirmary at Little France

Ms Paton said: “I would be very concerned about the delay until June 2027, given that we've already got a timescale that says the hospital should be up and running by Christmas 2026. That's far too long in itself. So I’d be extremely concerned that we've not got under way yet and they're already starting to push back the timeline.

“They need to get the hospital up and running sooner rather than later so they can keep the quality of the service as high as they possibly can and all the services in one place. Visually impaired people cannot go haring all over the country.”

The campaign to reinstate the new hospital had cross-party support. Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs has said he will raise the potential new delay with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf. Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson voiced his disquiet. He said: "NHS Lothian and SNP ministers must reassure the public that there is no slippage in the timetable for the new eye hospital. After the ridiculous back and forth over a replacement from Scottish Government, we should have no more dither or delays. The current eye pavilion is a critical health facility, but one that is badly in need of replacement. Another delay would be worrying."

And Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Both the SNP government and NHS Lothian have somewhat chequered history when it comes to delivering new hospitals in Edinburgh on time. The sight-loss community in the east of Scotland fought hard for a new hospital to be agreed and will be understandably dismayed if they have o make do with a dilapidated facility for the next five years.”

NHS Lothian has said the timescale for the new hospital is dependent on a number of factors but acknowledged a projected operational date of 2027, adding it had not been agreed with the Scottish Government and was “still subject to change”

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