Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack tells Scottish Government to end delays

Lack of clarity ‘incredibly concerning for patients’, Health Secretary Michael Matheson is told
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Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack has called on the Scottish Government to act decisively to end delays and uncertainty over Edinburgh's promised new eye hospital.

She warned that a lack of clarity had left patients concerned about the future of eye care in the Capital and said it looked like the government was holding the project back.

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The new hospital, to be built close to Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary at Little France, is a replacement for the current not-fit-for-purpose Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street. But an NHS Lothian source told the Evening News last week that it was "under threat again" and a campaign group of patients has said information from the health board showed the project was currently "on hold".

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says the delays to Edinburgh's new eye hospital are 'incredibly concerning' for patients.Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says the delays to Edinburgh's new eye hospital are 'incredibly concerning' for patients.
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says the delays to Edinburgh's new eye hospital are 'incredibly concerning' for patients.

Now Ms Boyack has written to Health Secretary Michael Matheson, who took over the role in March, asking him to meet her and people living with sight loss in Edinburgh to hear about their experience and how delays to the project are affecting them.

In her letter, Ms Boyack says he has written to successive health secretaries about the promised new hospital, but the lack of clarity in their responses had left her and her constituents more concerned about the future of eye care in the Capital. She told Mr Matheson: “I have welcomed the repeated commitments to replacing the Edinburgh Eye Pavilion. However, these warm words are not enough for my constituents who are living with sight loss. They have been left without any clarity about how they will receive the care and services they need to go about their daily lives."

She said NHS Lothian deputy chief executive Jim Crombie had made clear in a recent letter that the project was on hold while the Scottish Government undertook a review of wider funding and project sequencing across the Scottish health estate. And she continued: "With a dedicated Project Team in place, it seems that NHS Lothian are ready to commence with this project and that further delays by the Scottish Government are holding back this vitally important project.”

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Ms Boyack added that the recent announcement that the current Eye Pavilion was at “high risk” of having the type of cheap concrete linked to the collapse of a school roof in England meant it was “of paramount importance” that the Scottish Government get on with building the new hospital. And she asked Mr Matheson when the government review had been commissioned. when it was due to be completed and how much the additional cost to the project was from the delays.

She told the Evening News: “I wrote to Michael Matheson to stress the urgency of addressing the issues surrounding the new Edinburgh Eye Pavilion. The ongoing delays and uncertainty are inflicting untold harm upon individuals living with sight loss throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians. The Scottish Government cannot afford to wait any longer – they must step in and take decisive action now. Patients and staff have waited long enough. We’ve all had enough of warm words – when will the SNP/Green coalition get its act together and fund this vital project?”

The Scottish Government first agreed to a replacement for the Eye Pavilion in 2018, but then pulled the plug on the project two years later, only to be forced into a U-turn during the 2021 Holyrood elections when the then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it would go ahead after all. But the timetable for the project has already slipped twice, with the most recent estimate saying it would open in “late 2027”. And now the review will mean a further delay.

NHS Lothian has said it remains “very committed” to delivering the new eye hospital and has a project team fully mobilised to progress the project at the earliest opportunity. The Scottish Government has also said a replacement Eye Pavilion “remains a priority” and the current review “will provide clarity regarding funding and timescales for delivery of the new facility”.