Nicola Sturgeon says she will 'renew' Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion but opposition politicians say there must be a new hospital
Nicola Sturgeon today promised to “renew” Edinburgh’s Eye Pavilion if the SNP is re-elected.
But there were no further details and opposition politicians said they feared she meant refurbishing the existing “clapped out” building rather than restoring support for the planned new state-of-the-art eye hospital at Little France which ministers said in December they would no longer fund.
In a speech on the NHS, Ms Sturgeon announced plans for two new elective centres in Ayrshire and Cumbernauld.
She said: “A further six new elective centres are already in development, and we will also renew the Edinburgh Eye Pavilion.”
The current Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street has been deemed not fit for purpose and its former director Dr Hector Chawla has described it as “clapped out” with cracked walls, a leaky roof and lifts which keep breaking down.
Sarah Masson, SNP candidate for Edinburgh Western said: "This is great news for people right across Edinburgh, and the 8,000 people who undergo surgery at the Eye Pavilion every year.
"The facility is vital for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and the accessibility of it is key for those using it. I have no doubt that this announcement will be very welcome news for so many people who have, and continue to rely on our Eye Pavilion.”
But Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said the First Minister needed to clarify what she meant by “renew”.
"Are we going to get the fully-funded new eye hospital which was being pledged and was then taken away or is this just trying to pulll the wool over the eyes of voters?
"We need to see a commitment to fund a replacement, new-build eye hospital. This kind of offer of scraps from the table to refurbish or ‘renew’ the old Eye Pavilion doesn’t make sense. This seems to be an empty pledge they are making to voters. This has become the number one issue across Edinburgh and Lothian at this election.”
Asked to clarify Ms Sturgeon’s commnents, an SNP spokesman said: "It’s not confirmed yet what it will be, but it will either be a compete refurbishment or a new building – and that will be determine be discussions that will be had with the health board.”
There was a public outcry when NHS Lothian said in December it had been told the government would not fund the proposed new eye hospital next to the Royal Infirmary “now or in the foreseeable future” – despite signing up to the project in 2018. Ministers argued advances meant many eyecare services could be delivered in the community and said an elective centre due to be built in Livingston could do more eye surgery. NHS Lothian was ordered to carry out a review of its eyecare services.
But there have been cross-party calls for a rethink, with campaigners highlighting the problems faced by patients with sight loss having to travel to Livingston and the likely loss of research and training by scrapping the new hospital close to the BioQuarter.