Future of Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion now set to become election issue, warns MSP
With the Scottish Parliament elections due in May, Mr Briggs claimed voters could “punish” the SNP over the government’s refusal to fund a new eye hospital and the proposals for patients to be diverted elsewhere, including Livingston.
He claimed the response by public health minister Mairi Gougeon in a debate on the Eye Pavilion at Holyrood on Thursday showed no sign of understanding the concerns about the plans.
“We just got the civil service script read out to us,” he said. “It’s disappointing that ministers seem burying their heads in the sand over this.
“I think there is now growing concern and anger across Lothian at what is potentially going to happen to eye services and I think ministers haven’t quite woken up to that yet. I think this is now going to be an election issues – all opposition parties want to see a replacement Eye Pavilion for the city to and for proper consultation to take place.
"If it’s only the SNP who are against that I think voters will punish them at the ballot box.
"People in Edinburgh do not want to lose their eye hospital and why should they vote for them if that’s what they’re going to do to the city?"
The debate heard impassihttp://https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/subscriptionsoned calls from Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MSPs across Lothian to reverse the decision on the Eye Pavilion. They pointed to the poor state of the current building, the thousands of outpatient appointments and operations at the hospital each year, the increasing demands from a growing and ageing population and the difficulties patients with sight problems would face having to travel long distances.
In her reply, Ms Gougeon said she did appreciate how strongly people felt about it but highlighted how new technology and medical advances had changed the way services were delivered.
She said: “There are new, better and more efficient ways of meeting eye-care requirements, so we have asked NHS Lothian to look again at its plans for eye-care services and at what it can do with its existing estate and the new elective care centre in Livingston.”
Mr Briggs said he had called repeatedly for the decision to be paused and reconsidered. “Ministers seem to just be pressing on despite the concerns being put to them. It didn’t feel in Thursday’s debate that any of those concerns had been taken on board.”
He said he would be exploring with colleagues whether there was scope to bring a vote on the issue before parliament stops for the elections at the end of March.
“SNP MSPs in Lothian surely do not want to see the Eye Pavilion closed and these services lost. It’s time for them to speak up. They must be getting the same concerns put to them. They’re probably not happy with what’s going on either.”