Patients say they are disappointed at five-year wait for Edinburgh's new eye hospital
Patients who campaigned to reinstate plans for a new eye hospital in the Capital say they are disappointed it will be another five years before it opens.
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The Scottish Government – who pulled the plug on the replacement for the not-fit-for-purpose Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in December 2020 – has now performed a U-turn and approved the outline business case for the new hospital.
But NHS Lothian has set out a timetable which would see planning consent in September 2023, construction start in June 2024 with a completion date of September 2026 and the opening timed for December 2026.
Hazel Kelly, a founder member of Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion group (KEEP) which was formed to press the government to back the new hospital, welcomed the U-turn but voiced frustration over the length of time before the new building would be ready.
She said KEEP had been worried when the new hospital was promised as part of a decade-long programme of investment that they could even be facing a ten-year wait.
“I'm relieved it's not longer than five years, but I'm still disappointed it's going to take until 2026, given that we've wasted so much time already with the previous case before the government stopped it.
“The place would almost have been built by now if we had gone ahead with the previous trajectory.
"We had kind of reached this stage when it was all cancelled – architects had been employed, the building had been drawn and people like myself had been consulted and put in our ha'penceworth and then it was all just turned upside down. Now we're starting from the beginning again."
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, who was part of a cross-party campaign to get the government to go ahead with the new hospital, said there now needed to be urgent progress on the project.
“Considering that there has already been substantial work on the project, 2026 seems a long time off.
“It means that public funds will be spent on a hospital that is not fit for purpose and patients will be forced to wait for five years in order to access the high quality, integrated eye services the new eye hospital will deliver.
“When the SNP government refused to fund a replacement building to provide eye care for the people in Lothian they essentially cancelled a project that was already approved. They failed to take into account the impact their decision would have on our constituents.
“Thousands of people in Edinburgh and the Lothians are living with sight loss or with side effects of an eye problem – their lives will be transformed with the new Eye Pavilion. An accessible location and high standards of care will make a huge difference and improve those peoples’ everyday life.
“The sooner we see a new centre of excellence in the area, the better. People in Lothian have waited long enough – let’s make sure that the work that was carried out over the years is used to build the new Eye Pavilion as soon as possible.”
NHS Lothian has said it is important with any new facility that the appropriate planning can take place to ensure patients’ needs are met into the future.