Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Meeting with Health Secretary Michael Matheson leaves campaigners more concerned

No indication of when promised replacement for Edinburgh’s Eye Pavilion will go ahead
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Campaigners fighting to secure Edinburgh’s promised new eye hospital say a meeting with Health Secretary Michael Matheson has left them even more concerned about the future of the project than they were before.

The meeting, arranged by Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, allowed members of campaign group KEEP (Keep Edinburgh’s Eye Pavilion) to explain the urgent need for the new hospital directly to the minister. But they came away “disappointed and angry” that he was unable to give them any indication of when the hospital, scheduled to be built next to the Royal Infirmary at Little France, would go ahead.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And Ms Boyack warned the longer it took to build the new hospital, which will replace the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Lauriston Place, the more expensive it would be and the more impact there would be on patients left relying on the existing hospital which was declared not fit for purpose in 2014.

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack and campaigners from Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion had a meeting with Health Secretary Michael Matheson.Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack and campaigners from Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion had a meeting with Health Secretary Michael Matheson.
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack and campaigners from Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion had a meeting with Health Secretary Michael Matheson.

The Scottish Government agreed in principle to a new eye hospital for Edinburgh in 2018, but the project was effectively cancelled in December 2020 when the government told NHS Lothian it would no longer fund it. An outcry for the public, patients, politicians and professionals led to a U-turn by the then First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, during the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections and her successor Humza Yousaf has subsequently reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the new hospital.

The most recent date given by NHS Lothian for the hospital being completed was “late 2027” but campaigners believe it will now be later. Sylvia Paton, a leading member of KEEP, said: “Michael Matheson did tell us there would be support for a new hospital, but it would not be this term, which from our point of view means further delay. If it’s not in this term, when is it going to be? We are really, really concerned about the project overall."

She said the outline business case had been approved in September 2021 and NHS Lothian were given the go-ahead to develop the full business case. But she said: “Now the government is doing a review of capital projects and that puts it all in jeopardy.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The campaigners also highlighted the condition of the current Eye Pavilion, where there are frequent leaks, sometimes forcing operations to be cancelled, and problems with the lifts which are essential for getting patients to the operating theatre. Ms Paton said: “It’s almost 10 years since it was declared not it for purpose. If they don’t build the new hospital soon, the existing Eye Pavilion will get harder and harder to maintain and more and more costly. But it seems there is no intention of giving us a new Eye Pavilion any time soon.”

Ms Boyack, who secured the meeting with Mr Matheson after raising concerns about the eye hospital at First Minister’s Questions, also voiced concern about the delays. She said: “The longer it takes to get the new hospital, the more expensive the building is going to be and the more it will impact on patients having to rely on the current Eye Pavilion. There have been times the Eye Pavilion hasn’t been able to operate because there has been water ingress and we know NHS Lothian are checking it for RAAC concrete.

“The flip-flopping over the new hospital has been going on for too long. One minute the Scottish Government are committed to a new Eye Pavilion, next they are not. Michael Matheson’s failure to provide clarity has left patients worried, confused and angry. It did not have to be this way, if it had been built on time we would have saved many millions of pounds and patients would not be left in the dark.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The replacement Eye Pavilion remains a priority for the Scottish Government. The recently commissioned review of capital projects across the Scottish Government will provide clarity regarding funding and timescales for delivery of the new facility.”