Edinburgh's new eye hospital must be fast tracked, says MSP amid fears progress on project is too slow

Plans for a new eye hospital for Edinburgh must be fast-tracked following the Scottish Government’s decision to drop its attempt to scrap the project, an MSP has said.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 4:55 am

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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said the government’s move to cancel the new hospital last December, when more than £1 million had already been spent on preparation work, had already delayed the much-needed replacement for the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

And he said it was now a question of fulfilling the commitments made during the Holyrood elections in May and getting the project “back on track and built as soon as possible”.

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Design work on the new eye hospital was well advanced before the project was cancelled in December
Design work on the new eye hospital was well advanced before the project was cancelled in December

Public pressure, cross-party concern and calls from medical experts for a rethink helped persuade First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to promise on the campaign trail that a re-elected SNP government would after all fund a replacement for the Eye Pavilion, which has been declared no longer ft for purpose.

She repeated the pledge when she presented the new government’s priorities to the Scottish Parliament and NHS Lothian has been asked to resubmit its outline business case for the project.

But Mr Briggs now fears the hospital is not being given enough priority.He said: "We’re moving at a snail’s pace with getting this project back on track. This is a project which has been delayed because of the government.

“It would be totally unacceptable for the new replacement hospital to now be further slowed down by the government process having to start again all over. Let us not forget that SNP Ministers have already spent over £1m of taxpayers money on planning for the original replacement hospital project.

“What we now need is clarification on timescales and funding from SNP Ministers to deliver the new replacement hospital as soon as possible,

He is still waiting for a date for a meeting between Lothian MSPs and new Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to hear about the government’s expected timetable for the hospital.

And he has just received a reply to a letter he sent Mr Yousaf inquiring about the plans. In it, a senior official says the process for replacing the Eye Pavilion is “proceeding as a priority”.

But he also warns: “It is essential that the required due diligence is completed by all parties to ensure the best possible future services and facilities; and this will take time.”

Mr Briggs said: “For Lothian MSPs and MSPs across the south-east of Scotland this is a really important health project we all want to see fast-tracked and delivered, not just sitting in an in-tray for another year.

“I’m very keen that as soon as parliament returns MSPs from all parties get a chance to hold them to account on this and not just let them sit on it and use either Covid or being a new minister as excuses.

" A lot of this work has been done and the taxpayer has paid for it already. I don’t see why it couldn’t be fast tracked by ministers if they wanted to.

"The sooner construction takes place the sooner we’ll have a new hospital, which is incredibly important given the state of the current Eye Pavilion.”

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