Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Humza Yousaf says he's 'absolutely committed' to project, but won't name date

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Uncertainty over Edinburgh’s promised new eye hospital raised at First Minister’s Questions

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said the Scottish Government is “absolutely committed” to building Edinburgh’s promised new eye hospital but refused to confirm it would be built by the official completion date of “late 2027”.

The Evening News reported last month how an NHS Lothian source had said the replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion was “under threat again” because of uncertainty over Scottish Government funding. And Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack challenged Mr Yousaf on the issue at First Minister’s Questions.

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She said: “The First Minister will be aware that the new eye pavilion in Edinburgh has suffered delay after delay. Over the past few weeks, fresh doubts about its 2027 opening have arisen after NHS Lothian told patients and campaigners that timescales would be confirmed once the Scottish Government had completed a review of funding and sequencing on a number of capital projects.

First Minister Humza Yousaf refused to say that Edinburgh's new eye hospital would be built by the completion date of late 2027.First Minister Humza Yousaf refused to say that Edinburgh's new eye hospital would be built by the completion date of late 2027.
First Minister Humza Yousaf refused to say that Edinburgh's new eye hospital would be built by the completion date of late 2027.

“Will the First Minister confirm today to parliament that the new eye pavilion will open in 2027? Will he meet me and eye pavilion patients to reassure them that the Scottish Government will fund that vital project, given that it was not mentioned in the programme for government?”

Mr Yousaf replied: “I am happy to confirm that we are absolutely committed to the eye pavilion. Sarah Boyack is right that there is a review of the capital projects that we are funding right across Government. That review is very much still on-going, which is why we are not able to confirm the timelines.

“There has been a significant reduction in our capital budget by the Westminster UK Government, which I am afraid has impacts. There is also the disaster of the mini-budget last year, which has meant that inflation and construction costs have risen exponentially. That is why the capital programmes review has to be undertaken. When it is complete, we will ensure that parliament is updated accordingly.”

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He added that Health Secretary Michael Matheson would be happy to meet Ms Boyack and patients over the new eye hospital.

Approval in principle for a new eye hospital was agreed in 2018, but the Scottish Government withdrew funding from the project in December 2020 and proposed spreading ophthalmic services across Lothian. That sparked an outcry from the public, politicians and professionals. The then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon performed a U-turn during the 2021 Holyrood election, pledging the new hospital would be funded after all. But the projected opening date for the hospital has already slipped from December 2026 to “late 2027” and now looks set to be even later.

Ms Boyack said the Scottish Government had shown “a staggering lack of leadership and clarity” over the project. She said: “A few months ago, we finally received confirmation that the new eye hospital would be operational in 2027. However, when I asked the First Minister to reassure patients and staff and put on record that the new Eye Pavilion would be delivered by 2027, as promised, he gave me a non-answer.

“I have written to Michael Matheson, and I will happily take up the First Minister on his offer for a meeting. No ifs, no buts, the Scottish Government must commit to a new Eye Hospital by 2027."