Edinburgh's new eye hospital will not open for anther five years, timetable shows

Patients and staff face a five-year wait for Edinburgh’s new eye hospital, according to a timetable drawn up by health bosses.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 4:55 am

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The hospital, to replace the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, is not scheduled to open until December 2026.

And concerns are being raised about why just over two years of construction – roughly what was expected for the new building – is preceded by nearly three years of “red tape”.

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An impression of the proposed new eye hospital as previously put forward

The Scottish Government announced on Friday that the outline business case for the new hospital had been approved, sealing the U-turn on the decision in December 2020 to refuse funding for the project, effectively cancelling the new hospital despite much work having been done.

Now a timetable of “key milestones” circulated to staff and seen by the Evening News shows acquisition of the site due to be settled in January 2022, outline planning consent being granted in September 2023, the full business case being approved and construction starting in June 2024, with the hospital due for completion in September 2026 and opening to patients three months later.

Dr Hector Chawla, former director of the Eye Pavilion, said: "I can only be pleased that the collective advice of people who know has been listened to, but a projected opening date of December 2026 means more money to be spent on the roof and lifts of the current Eye Pavilion.

“New approval for something that had already been approved shows at least that wisdom has prevailed over expediency."

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs voiced disappointment that the hospital was not being progressed more quickly.

He said: "I think everyone is a bit frustrated that things are progressing so slowly – that's really the government’s fault for cancelling the project, but it doesn't feel as if the health board are showing any sense of urgency either.

"All of us who have been involved are quite frustrated at how slow the decision making around this seems to have become, especially as it was progressing pretty well before it was scrapped.

"If we are working on that timescale, the current building will need significant investment. The longer the timescale for the new hospital the higher the spend will become to maintain that building.

"I would like to see the health board and the government not only prioritise this but move ahead as soon as possible with getting a shovel-ready project or explain what is the hold-up."

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “It’s extremely welcome to have confirmation the new hospital is being green-lit, but the timetable seems unnecessarily slow.

"The overarching concern has always been the current building is beyond its useful life. Edinburgh needs a new eye hospital as soon as possible.”

And Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The revelations about the timetable will be distressing for people who depend on the service and understand how threadbare the old building is.

"It’s baffling we require three years of red tape when actually this project has been on the stocks for years prior to this.

"I will be asking questions of government as to whether this can be expedited.”

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer for acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “We are delighted that we can progress our plans for a new world-class eye hospital here in Lothian.

"Like any new facility, it is important that the appropriate planning can take place to ensure the facilities truly meet our patients’ needs into the future.

“While the plans and work are ongoing, patients will continue to be able access high-quality eye care and treatment both within the existing Princess Alexander Eye Pavilion, and in other more localised settings.”

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