Scottish Government won't say what future it sees for Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion

The Scottish Government is refusing to say what future it sees for Edinburgh's Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion after announcing it will not fund a £45 million replacement.

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 7:00 am
Design work was well under way to replace the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion before the Scottish Government announced it would not fund the project Pic Greg Macvean

Ministers want more eyecare to be delivered in the community and have suggested some services could be transferred to a new elective treatment centre in Livingston.

But on the question of what role, if any, there will be for the current Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street, the government put the onus on NHS Lothian.

An initial agreement was reached two years ago on a replacement for the Eye Pavilion next to the Royal Infirmary at Little France and work on design of the building was well under way, but Health Secretary Jeane Freeman pulled the plug on the project towards the end of last year.

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Following a meeting with Ms Freeman earlier this week, Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said he feared Lothian could be left with some services being provided at Livingston, serious cases referred to the specialist centre at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank and no dedicated eye hospital in Edinburgh.

After Mr Briggs' comments, the Scottish Government told the Evening News there were no plans to move emergency and complex surgery to the Gold Jubilee. And it said as an alternative to "full replacement" of the Eye Pavilion it had suggested giving patients access to care closer to home and using the elective centre in Livingston to carry out additional eye surgery.

But now, asked to clarify what these plans meant for the future of the Eye Pavilion, a spokeswoman has said: “NHS Lothian is currently undertaking a review of their ophthalmology services as a whole, and we await their recommendations and proposals.”

Mr Briggs said a review had been forced on NHS Lothian because the government had "snatched the money away from them".

"It sounds like a forced crisis with them having to look into what they can do with less money and no commitment for a replacement.

"This is not the start of any genuine consultation, this is them having the rug pulled from underneath them and now they're having to put a cheap solution together.

"The government should just admit they want to distribute services away from that building and close it."

He said the new elective centre in Livingston was no substitute. "At no point was that meant to be the new Eye Pavilion. This is just setting us up for a reduced, poorer ophthalmology service and that is unacceptable."

Edinburgh Western MSP and Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said continuing uncertainty about the future of the “much-loved” Eye Pavilion was deeply unsettling for the many thousands of patients it serves.

"The Scottish Government need to be crystal clear about their own intentions on this and stop passing the buck to the health board. It’s ludicrous to believe our capital city should be without a world-class eyecare facility.”

Jacquie Campbell, NHS Lothian chief officer for acute services, said: “Although the funding decision on NHS Lothian’s plans for a new eye hospital is a disappointing setback, our focus and commitment remains on the delivery of safe, effective and efficient eye care.

“We’re currently reviewing alternative service delivery models. This will build on the significant, multi-professional redesign work already undertaken to develop a modern pathway and service model proposal, which will ensure we deliver high quality eye care and treatments for patients.”

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