Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Pressure stepped up on Scottish Government to guarantee funding for project
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Sight loss charity RNIB Scotland has written to MSPs, urging them to take up the issue with Health Secretary Michael Matheson and press the case for the new hospital, intended to replace the Capital’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, which was declared unfit for purpose in 2014 and is now suspected of containing potentially dangerous RAAC concrete.
The Scottish Government approved a new hospital in 2018, cancelled in 2020, then bowed to public pressure the following year and promised it would go ahead. A completion date of 2026 has already slipped to “late 2027”, but now the hospital has been included in a review of capital spending, raising fears that funding could be postponed, leading to a prolonged delay to the project.
In a letter to all MSPs in Edinburgh and the Lothians, RNIB Sotland director James Adams voices “dismay” that the project has now been paused while the review is carried out.
He says: Over 183,000 people across Scotland are estimated to live with sight loss and this number is set to grow. Every single one of these individuals deserves access to quality eye healthcare. The renewal of the Princess Alexandra Eye Position is crucial to the future provision of eye services in the wider Edinburgh and Lothian area and vital for patients’ eye health.
"A new facility could not only improve access to eye healthcare but has the potential to encompass teaching and research and as well as many other services for people with eye conditions. The current situation is unsatisfactory and deeply unsettling for patients, staff and the wider community.”
And he tells the MSPs: “I urge you to write to the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care to underline the need for a new eye hospital in Edinburgh and to call on the Scottish Government to identify the resources to renew and set out a timeline as soon as possible.”
The letter comes after two other charities, Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, launched a petition earlier this month calling on the Scottish Government to commit to funding the new hospital without further delay. They warned people’s eye health was being put at risk because of the poor facilities at the current Eye Pavilion.
And patients campaigning to the new hospital said a meeting with Mr Matheson left them even more concerned about the future of the project than they were before because he had been unable to give them any reassurance on the project.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs welcomed the RNIB Scotland intervention. He said there had been cross-party efforts to secure a commitment from the government on the new hospital. “We have all been campaigning to get this taken forward. There is growing concern that the Scottish Government has not been showing a full, 100 per cent commitment to the project and I think we are all quite concerned that what we are hearing is not positive on terms of them making sure this is going to progress.
"We need to ensure there is a 100 per cent guarantee this is going to go ahead as soon as possible.”
The Scottish Government has said it is “absolutely committed” to replacing the Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh and the review of capital spending “will provide clarity regarding funding and timescales for delivery of the new facility”.