Government faces cross-party calls to reverse refusal to fund new eye hospital for Edinburgh

The Scottish Government will not fund a replacement for the Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion    Pic Greg MacveanThe Scottish Government will not fund a replacement for the Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion    Pic Greg Macvean
The Scottish Government will not fund a replacement for the Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion Pic Greg Macvean
The Scottish Government has faced cross-party calls to reverse its refusal to fund a replacement for Edinburgh’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

In a Scottish Parliament debate, MSPs warned the decision would leave the Capital as one of the few major UK cities without its own eye hospital.

And they questioned whether the scrapping of the proposed new hospital was linked to the cost of other projects in NHS Lothian.

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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs, who instigated the debate, said it was clear a replacement Eye Pavilion was needed to ensure demand could be met.

“Ophthalmology is already Scotland’s largest outpatient speciality. Demand for eye health services continues to increase, with more people waiting longer to be seen.

He said he welcomed the additional surgery capacity at the new elective centre at St John’s Hospital, Livingston, but said it could in no way replace the Eye Pavilion.

And he appealed to the government to pause and re-think its decision.

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“I’d like ministers to agree to undertake an independent assessment of all options. It would be unacceptable for Scotland’s Capital to lose its eye hospital and indeed for Edinburgh to become one of only a few major UK cities to not have an eye hospital.”

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said the work of the Eye Pavilion was “truly outstanding”. “They perform miracles, they restore people’s sight.”

And he warned dispersing services, as suggested by the government, risked losing the critical mass of expertise and skills.

“What we are seeing is the destruction of a centre of excellence for budgetary reasons. How many people will lose heir sight because of the loss of this key specialist service from the city?”

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Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said optometrists had told him the government’s decision was a disaster.

And he called for an assurance there was no link between the decision and the haemorrhaging of public cash in the Sick Kids debacle. “The confluence of these two things is uncanny and troubling. I would like that clarified for the record.”

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay: “This situation is just the latest in a long line of debacles in the NHS Lothian area caused by the Scottish Government’s running of the NHS. Of the £207 million black hole in the NHS budget almost half of it is for NHS Lothian. Is this the reason there has been the cancellation of this project?”

Replying to the debate, public health minister Mairi Gougeon said there had been fundamental changes recently in how eyecare services were delivered. “Lower risk patients can now be safely reviewed in virtual clinics and many patients are now being cared for by highly-qualified optometrists in their own communities. New technology is also changing what facilities are required to carry out some eye surgeries. With our investment in the new elective care centre in Livingston NHS Lothian can significantly increase its theatre capacity for more complex procedures.

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"What is needed from an eye hospital now and in the future has fundamentally changed and that is why we have needed to look again at the Eye Pavilion proposal.”

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