Edinburgh's promised new eye hospital: Scottish Government funding decision postponed until spring

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
‘A lot of people fear it is heading towards being cancelled again’

A decision on funding for Edinburgh’s promised new eye hospital appears to have been postponed until the spring – despite previous assurances of “clarity” by the time of the Scottish Budget.

Progress on the £112.5 million project to replace the not-fit-for-purpose Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion has been paused as part of a capital spending review by the Scottish Government, which was due to be completed before the budget on Tuesday, December 19.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But Finance Secretary Shona Robison made no mention of the review or the eye hospital in her speech at Holyrood. And in response to enquiries from the Evening News, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As set out in the draft Scottish Government budget the capital funding position is extremely challenging due to UK government cuts and our emphasis for the immediate future will be on addressing backlog maintenance and essential equipment replacement.

The Scottish Government was expected to announce a funding decision on the new hospital at the time of the budget.The Scottish Government was expected to announce a funding decision on the new hospital at the time of the budget.
The Scottish Government was expected to announce a funding decision on the new hospital at the time of the budget.

“We will bring forward a revised Infrastructure Investment Plan in the spring, alongside the medium term financial strategy, at which point we would hope that fiscal outlook will be clearer.”

The government said NHS boards would be supported to develop their strategic asset management and investment plans which would inform future capital spending reviews. All projects in development would be re-assessed as part of this strategic review and the timing of capital investment re-phased in line with future funding availability.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said the latest delay had fuelled fears about the future of the hospital. He said: "It’s a real sign of how this government has not been taking this project forward. We’re three years on now from them cancelling the project to then, due to pressure during the election, agreeing to do it, to now when its future is hanging in the balance. A lot of people are very disappointed and concerned this is it heading towards being cancelled again.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We need the green light for the hospital in the new year. We’ll be continuing to raise this and the cross-party support for the project is going to be really important.”

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack accused the government of “kicking the can down the road” and sight loss charities said ministers had let down vulnerable patients.

Ms Boyack said: “I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Finance Secretary made no mention of the Edinburgh Eye Pavilion in the Scottish Government Budget.

“The SNP seem to be following their usual pattern of promising a new Eye Pavilion, then kicking the can down the road. To not even mention the new Edinburgh Eye Pavilion, is a slap in the face to the dedicated campaigners, charities, and patients who have pushed so hard for a new facility.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The Eye Pavilion has cross-party support, from MSPs all across Edinburgh. If the Scottish Government continues to dither and delay, it will only ensure that the costs for when the building is inevitably replaced will be far higher.

“It will also mean patients will continue to have to use facilities that have not been fit for purpose for only 10 years. Wavering on this issue, will only cause more harm and uncertainty for patients and residents, right across Edinburgh. I will continue to work constructively with MSPs, campaigners and patients to ensure we get the new Eye Pavilion we were promised.”

And Craig Spalding, chief executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, said: “The Scottish Government have again let down eye patients across Edinburgh and the Lothians, many of whom are extremely vulnerable and are crying out for more help. This decision will undoubtedly lead to more cancellations, prolonged delays and increased risk to both patients and staff.

“While undoubtedly weighed against various factors, this represents a missed opportunity to address a critical need of people with sight conditions in Scotland. It’s shocking the building has been allowed to operate despite being declared unfit for purpose a decade ago. The refusal to fund a new hospital is denying people access to good quality eye healthcare and the potential to advance new treatments.

"The number of people in Scotland with visual impairment is set to exceed 200,000 by 2030 and without a new hospital, the Scottish Government is failing them.”