Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Lothian MSP says Scottish Government letter shows project will not go ahead

Labour’s Sarah Boyack accuses SNP of rowing back on Eye Pavilion pledge
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Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says he has received a letter from the Scottish Government which shows Edinburgh’s promised new eye hospital will not go ahead.

And she accused the SNP administration of betraying patients by rowing back on the pledge to build the replacement for the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, which was declared not fit for purpose in 2014.

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Ms Boyack had written to Health Secretary Michael Matheson, urging him to spell out a timetable for delivering the new hospital after the project was put on hold pending a government review of its capital spending plans. A replacement hospital was originally agreed by ministers in 2018 but then cancelled it before doing a U-turn and pledging in 2021 that it would go ahead after all.

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says the Scottish Government has betrayed patients across Edinburgh and the LothiansLothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says the Scottish Government has betrayed patients across Edinburgh and the Lothians
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says the Scottish Government has betrayed patients across Edinburgh and the Lothians

The outcome of the spending review was expected at the time of the Sottish Government budget in December but did not materialise. However, soon after the budget, health boards were told there would be no capital funding for new projects for at least the next two years.

In a reply to Ms Boyack, the government said: “The Scottish Government will continue to support the Health Boards to maximise capacity and reduce the length of time people are waiting for appointments and treatment using their existing facilities. Over the past three years, an additional £11.5 million of capital funding has been made available to hospital eye care services, in particular to enable the review of patients with sight threatening eye conditions.

“The development of imaging clinics is enabling more patients with conditions such as wet-age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma to be seen in the appropriate time period required of their condition. In addition, a number of Health Boards have additional cataract slots at Golden Jubilee National Hospital and every effort is being undertaken locally and nationally to ensure that patients are reviewed and, where appropriate, receive surgery as quickly as possible.

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“I appreciate that this is not the response you were seeking. However, the funding position is extremely challenging and the actions we are taking are necessary to ensure that the Health Portfolio stays within its capital budget and protects investment in the maintenance of the existing NHS estate and essential equipment replacement across Scotland.”

Asked about the new eye hospital at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Humza Yousaf told MSPs there was “no doubt” it had to be built. He said: “We need to replace the current infrastructure that is there, so there is no doubting across any political party that that has to be done.”

But Ms Boyack said the letter made clear that the eye hospital would not go ahead. She said: “The SNP have betrayed patients across Edinburgh and the Lothians by breaking this commitment. Patients were promised time and time again that a new Eye Pavilion would be built.

“The SNP Government’s inaction has ensured that patients will have to rely on a hospital that has been not fit for purpose for a decade. A new Eye Pavilion was supported by patients, campaigners and politicians across all parties.

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“This decision will lead to more cancelled appointments, more delays and more risks to patients and staff. I will continue to hold the SNP’s feet to the fire over this. I will not give up in securing Edinburgh the new eye hospital it so desperately needs.”