Edinburgh's promised new eye hospital: Health Secretary Michael Matheson says no decision until December
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And he said the cost of the project would not be known until the full business case was presented, which under the previous timetable was not due to happen until later next year. In a letter to Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, he hinted the picture could become clearer at the time of the Scottish budget, which will be set out in December. But Ms Boyack warned the longer the new hospital is put off, the more costs will soar.
Ms Boyack wrote to Mr Matheson last month, calling on the Scottish Government to take "decisive action" to end the delays and uncertainty over the new hospital, whose completion date had already slipped to “late 2027” and now looks set to be even later.
A replacement for the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion was originally approved in 2018, but the government withdrew funding two years later. An outcry from the public, politicians and professionals forced a U-turn during the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, but now the hospital is said to be "under threat again" after the government ordered a review of capital projects.
NHS Lothian has previously said the the timescale for the new eye hospital will be decided "in partnership with the Scottish Government following their review of funding and sequencing of a number of capital projects". And it added: "Once this review is complete it will determine when it will be possible to recommence the project delivery as planned.”
In his letter to Ms Boyack, Mr Matheson said: "In May 2023, the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) highlighted the pressures facing the capital budget, including a projected real terms fall of 6.7 per cent in our capital funding over the medium term and sustained high inflation, which reduces our spending power.
"The MTFS committed to publishing refreshed multi-year capital spending envelopes up to 2026-27 alongside the 2024-25 Budget and we remain committed to providing a confirmed position around the time of the Autumn budget statement."
He said the cost of the project, like others, was being affected by factors including inflationary pressures, the impact of the war in Ukraine and challenges in the wider economy. And he added: "The cost of the project will not be able to be confirmed until we have a final business case."
Ms Boyack said: “Once again the problem is the lack of certainty which has been going on for years. The Health Secretary references financial pressures, but the longer the delay the more the costs of this vital project will escalate. Both the current and previous First Ministers have said they are committed to the Eye Pavilion, but we need more than warm words. NHS Lothian needs support now so that they can get on and buy the site and get going with planning and building our new Eye Pavilion.”