Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Humza Yousaf renews Scottish Government commitment

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Health Secretary says new hospital will happen despite delays and cost increase

Humza Yousaf has reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to building a new eye hospital in Edinburgh.

The projected timetable for the project has already slipped twice before construction work has started. And, speaking to the Evening News, the Health Secretary and SNP leadership contender appeared to accept there could be further delays, but insisted the new hospital would be built.

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A replacement for the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street – declared not fit for purpose in 2014 – was originally agreed in principle in 2018, but the project was effectively cancelled in December 2020 when the government told NHS Lothian it would no longer fund it. Instead, ministers said eye care should be dispersed across the region, with some operations switching to St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf says the hospital will go ahead despite the delays and cost increase.  Picture Jane Barlow/PA Wire.Health Secretary Humza Yousaf says the hospital will go ahead despite the delays and cost increase.  Picture Jane Barlow/PA Wire.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf says the hospital will go ahead despite the delays and cost increase. Picture Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

But under pressure from the public, local politicians and medical professionals, Nicola Sturgeon did a U-turn during the 2021 Holyrood election and said the new hospital would be funded after all. However, patients and campaigners were disappointed with the projected timetable which envisaged construction starting in June 2024 and the hospital not opening until December 2026. And since then the timings have slipped twice. In April 2022 a report to the NHS Lothian board put the date a full six months later at June 2027. And in November 2022 health chiefs said they expected the new hospital to open to the public in “late 2027”. The cost of the new eye hospital, to be built close to the Royal Infirmary at Little France, has also increased from £112.5m to £123m.

The government itreats the new eye hospital as part of its National Treatment Centres programme, a national network of purpose-built facilities to speed up planned care and cut waiting lists, but which has also seen delays. Mr Yousaf acknowledged the timetable slippages and the rising price tag, but he said: “I'm absolutely confident it will happen.”

He continued: “It’s not just the time delay, it's the cost increase that are associated with that which are concerning. That goes back to a whole myriad of factors affecting cnstruction of capital projects right across the country. But it will happen, and we’ve got to make sure we make good in terms of the timetable. There may well be slippage, as we've already seen, but I'm keen to make sure the entire National Treatment Centre programme which is so vital to our NHS's recovery is kept as on track as possible and on budget as best we possibly can.”