Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Scottish Government accused of 'lack of urgency' after Health Secretary Humza Yousaf fails to set date to meet MSPs

Tory MSP Miles Briggs has accused the Scottish Government of a lack of urgency over Edinburgh’s promised new eye hospital after Health Secretary Humza Yousaf refused to set a date for a meeting with Lothian politicians.

By Ian Swanson
Friday, 29th October 2021, 4:55 am

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Mr Yousaf agreed after the Holyrood elections in May to a request for a cross-party meeting with the MSPs following the government pledge to go ahead with the project, but no meeting has taken place and in a letter this week he said he would meet them “as soon as my diary allows”.

Mr Briggs said: “Everyone is getting very frustrated that we just don’t know what the government is planning and there just seems to be a delay tactic now.

Design work on the new eye hospital was under way before the cancellation.

"Having requested a meeting and been told we’d have one, we now just seem to be having it kicked along the road and that’s not good enough.”

The current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion was deemed no longer fit for purpose in 2014 and the government agreed in principle to a replacement eye hospital next to the Royal Infirmary at Little France in 2018.

But in December 2020, ministers effectively cancelled it by saying they would not fund the project "now or in the foreseeable future".

However, a public outcry led to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promising during the election campaign that the government would after all find money for a new eye hospital.

But the timetable for the project shows construction starting in June 2024, with the hospital due for completion in September 2026, opening to patients three months later.

In his letter Mr Yousaf said: “The Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to investing in health infrastructure and the £10 billion we will invest over the next 10 years includes replacing the Edinburgh Eye Pavilion.

"We have approved the Outline Business Case for a new Eye Pavilion and invited NHS Lothian to develop its Full Business Case, which the Health Board plan to submit in 2024. Construction is due to complete in 2026.

“Planning and building a hospital is a complex task and NHS Lothian plans to get it right, preparing detailed service plans and building designs.

“Whilst I will be unable to attend the meeting that you have suggested, I will be looking to facilitate a meeting of MSPs interested in the delivery of eye care in Lothian as soon as my diary allows.”

Mr Briggs said he was concerned about how much of a priority the project was for the government.

"I just don’t think there is the urgency within the Scottish Government around this project and that’s hugely concerning.

“As MSPs we have an important role to play in making sure we get this signed, sealed and delivered as the state-of-the-art eye hospital we want to see.”

And Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack is unhappy the hospital will not open until 2026.

“People in Lothian desperately need a hospital what will deliver high quality eye care and integrated services,” she said.

"The five years of waiting will lead to a prolonged period of stress for both patients and staff – not to mention the public expense to maintain a facility that is simply not fit for purpose, public money that could have been invested in other areas of our NHS.

“Mr Yousaf must meet Lothian MSPs and shed light on his plans. We need concrete details and reassurance that, this time, the Scottish Government will deliver a new eye hospital and the time frame will be respected.

“Planning and building a hospital is, undeniably, a complex task. However, the Health Secretary must communicate with MSPs in a regular and consistent manner and do everything in his power to pick up the pace.”

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