Edinburgh's new eye hospital: NHS Lothian names project as a top priority for Scottish Government funding

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Health Board prioritises Eye Pavilion replacement but whether Scottish Government will fund it is ‘a different question’

Health bosses in Lothian have named a new eye hospital in Edinburgh as one of their number one priorities for funding from the Scottish Government.

The project to replace the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion has been included on the Category A list submitted to ministers, putting it ahead of another key project, a replacement Edinburgh Cancer Centre at the Western General Hospital.

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The Scottish Government is carrying out a review of its spending on capital projects across the country ahead of the budget on December 19, when it is expected to announce which projects will receive funding.

The new eye hospital has now been placed in Category A, as a project required within the next five years.The new eye hospital has now been placed in Category A, as a project required within the next five years.
The new eye hospital has now been placed in Category A, as a project required within the next five years.

The current Eye Pavilion was declared no longer fit for purpose in 2014. A new eye hospital was originally approved in 2018, but then cancelled. Pressure from politicians, professionals and the public led the ten First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to U-turn during the 2021 Holyrood election campaign and pledge it would go ahead. But the project has already been delayed and there are now fears the spending review could postpone it again.

The health board's decision to include the eye hospital in Category A signals the urgency of the project. One source said: "This is the board's priority, but whether or not the government agrees to fund it is a different question."

Other projects on NHS Lothian's Category A list – required within five years – include the national treatment centre at St John's Hospital in Livingston and enabling works for the new cancer centre. The full cancer centre project is now in Category B, which covers projects required within the next 5-10 years.

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A report on prioritisation to the NHS Lothian board highlighted the historic funding gap for the health board, calculated to have cost Lothian around £150m over the past decade, and also the projected population growth for the area - more than 95,000 over the next ten years, accounting for 80 per cent of all Scotland’s population expansion.

The report said: "Projects were categorised according to the urgency of need. This does not reflect the overall importance of each project, but rather when they would be required.

"All projects within the prioritisation process are recognised to be important and a priority for the organisation in order to meet demand from population growth and increased capacity need from pressure on service provision. The process therefore supports consideration of the relativity of priority between each project.

"The Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion Project is partly associated with population growth, but at least as much with the poor state of the current facility."

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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs welcomed the Category A designation. He said: "For ministers taking decisions around future capital budgets, this puts the eye hospital as the number one project. Ministers previously pulled the plug on it, but it would be unacceptable for them to do that again.”