Nicola Sturgeon must keep her pledge over new eye hospital for Edinburgh, say Lothian MSPs

Opposition politicians today vowed to ensure Nicola Sturgeon sticks to her promise over funding for a new eye hospital for the Capital.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 8:00 am

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After telling NHS Lothian in December there would be no Scottish Government financial support for the planned replacement for Edinburgh’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, the First Minister pledged during the election she would fund a new hospital if the health board still wanted it.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: "We need to hold Nicola Sturgeon's feet to the fire on this issue."

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Plans for a new eye hospital at Little France were well advanced before funding was refused

And Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said it was vital she spelled out “how and when” the new hospital would be delivered.

NHS Lothian has been carrying out a review of eye services prompted by the December decision and in reply to a letter from Mr Briggs it has outlined some of the alternatives looked at.

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These included expanding services already in place at St John’s Hospital in Livingston for West Lothian residents and introducing services at East Lothian Community Hospital; local diagnostic centres for patients with chronic but stable eye conditions; and training optometrists to manage discharged glaucoma patients in the community.

The board added the review also considered which services, such as emergency eye services, specialist theatres and beds, needed to be located together and whether bed numbers could be reduced.

Mr Briggs said in view of the election pledges by the SNP, events had now overtaken the review's work.

But he said: "This information underlines just how much we need the new hospital. For Lothian MSPs this will be the number one issue.

"During the election we turned the issue around from seeing funding refused to a position where Nicola Sturgeon made a commitment that, if the health board wants a hospital, the Scottish government will fund it.

"Promises made during an election and promises delivered after an election are two very different things and I'm determined we push the SNP to deliver on this.

“I think they will pay a price if they were just trying to get through an election and actually have no intention of funding a new hospital.

"Up until the moment NHS Lothian got that letter saying the government wouldn't fund it things seemed be moving quite well to get the replacement so we just need to get the project back on track.”

Mr Johnson said one of Ms Sturgeon’s first actions on being reinstalled as First Minister must be to confirm the government’s plans on a replacement Eye Pavilion.

He said: “Promises were made throughout the election campaign, but it’s now vital she clarifies how and when this essential healthcare facility will be replaced.”

Ms Sturgeon first promised during the election that the SNP would “renew” the Eye Pavilion, then confirmed that meant replacing it – if that was the option favoured by NHS Lothian.

Amid concerns about whether the pledge was too qualified, she insisted there was “no doubt” about the commitment.

And responding to fears NHS Lothian’s review was unlikely to propose a new hospital since it had been established to look for alternative options, she said: "We're in a different position because we've made the funding commitment."

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