Patient who depends on Edinburgh's eye hospital is 'horrified' by plans to disperse services due to lack of funding for new building

A retired teacher who attends Edinburgh's Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion every few weeks for sight-saving injections has spoken about her fears for the future if eyecare services are moved to Livingston, as proposed by the Scottish Government.

Tuesday, 5th January 2021, 7:00 am

The government has told NHS Lothian it will not fund a new eye hospital to replace the current building in Chalmers Street which was deemed unfit for purpose five years ago. Ministers have suggested services could be spread across other hospitals in the area, including a new elective care centre which is being built next to St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

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But Joan Leslie-Cole, 74, from Granton, said she was “horrified” at the idea of care being dispersed from the Eye Pavilion. She said it would make it harder for patients like herself to access services and risked damaging the excellence of the expertise available.

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Ms Leslie-Cole suffers from wet macular degeneration, which has badly affected the vision in her right eye and is now also affecting her left eye.

She said: “Every six to eight weeks I have an injection in my eye. It's miraculous, they are keeping it functioning perfectly normally – they don’t know how long they’ll be able to do that, but I’m so grateful to them because without them I know in that eye the vision in the centre would be gone as well. I really value their help and expertise.”

And she said she feared sending parts of the service to other hospitals would undermine the integrity of the current care.

“For some time now I’ve felt the expertise and excellence of research and knowledge at the Eye Pavilion is undervalued

Princess Alexandria NHS Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street Picture: Greg Macvean

“I know they have struggled with the old building for quite some time – it has been a kind of joke that it's not in great condition, but they process so many people and they deal so expertly with all kinds of problems and condition and emergencies, they should be being respected and supported and given money to develop their skills rather than being asked to be a diaspora spread out to a number of hospitals.

“As soon as you split up groups who work together as a team you lose that cohesion and support they give each other, where if there's as problem they can go and say ‘Come and have a look at this’. It's just appalling if they're going to chop it.”

Ms Leslie-Cole also spelled out the problems patients could face if the dispersal plans went ahead.

"I go every two months and I can’t take the car because when I come out after the injection I'm struggling even to read my phone to call a taxi.

“Because I don't have good vision in the other eye I always take a taxi home because the eye is vulnerable for a couple of days and you are open to infection. If I had to go to Livingston I could go there by bus but I would find it extremely difficult to come back on a bus – I wouldn't be able to see accurately when to get off and I would be concerned about getting dust in it or people sneezing.

“There are lots of people like me being kept independent – driving, coping, cooking, doing everything – because of the eye hospital.”

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