Fears over funding for maintenance of Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion for next five years until new eye hospital is ready

An official answer by Health Secretary Humza Yousa to a parliamentary question has raised fears over whether the Scottish Government will provide extra cash to help maintain Edinburgh's Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion over the next five years until a replacement is built.

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 4:55 am

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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs had asked what funding NHS Lothian would be given to keep the 50-year-old Eye Pavilion going until the new eye hospital opens in 2026.

The current building on Chalmers Street was deemed not fit for purpose in 2014 and has had frequent problems with broken lifts and leaks in the roof.

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Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion has been deemed unfit for purpose since 2014 Picture: Greg Macvean

But in his answer, Mr Yousaf outlined the government's plans to invest £10 billion Scotland-wide in health infrastructure over the next decade, including £140m capital investment for each health board.

He said: "We will double our annual funding for maintenance, so that in total £1 billion will be invested in enhancing or refurbishing existing facilities, and updating and modernising key equipment."

But there was no mention of specific funding for NHS Lothian in recognition of the likely costs involved in five years’ further upkeep of a building universally seen as past its sell-by date.

And he added: "It is for NHS Lothian to manage their local budget and determine where their maintenance budget is directed, but we would expect them to maintain a safe and compliant facility, until the new eye hospital opens."

In December last year the Scottish Government pulled the plug on plans for a new eye hospital, but after sustained public pressure it performed a U-turn and agreed to fund the replacement building after all.

Mr Briggs said Mr Yousaf's answer failed to engage on the issue he had raised.

"To just kick this to the health board, given the pressures they are under, I am concerned this is not addressing the key point, which is that the old Eye Pavilion needs investment between now and the new hospital opening.

"People will be using it over this period and the government, given they tried to scrap the project and are really to blame for the delay we have seen, owes Lothian some compensation to help tide us over with the Eye Pavilion and the expense involved."

Mr Briggs also raised the question of maintenance cost at the Eye Pavilion during a debate on Wednesday for National Eye Health Week, but public health minister Maree Todd did not mention it in her reply.

Mr Briggs said: "The radio silence suggests they haven't put together anything on this or there isn't going to be money allocated.

“The Eye Pavilion should have been replaced long before now, but we’re talking now about another potential five years before we get then new hospital – that’s a long time for a busy building which is not fit for purpose. We need to see where there might be some sort of compensation available and support from the government for bridging from the old Eye Pavilion to the new hospital.

“I would like to see the new hospital sooner than five years, but if that's what it’s going to be they have to be realistic about how the old hospital will function.”

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