Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Halt to project means patients will struggle to get care

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Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack urges Humza Yousaf to 'level with the public' on impact of freeze on project

Health bosses in Lothian have warned that eye patients will struggle to get care because of the Scottish Government's order to halt work on Edinburgh's promised new eye hospital.

The plans to replace the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, which was declared not fit for purpose in 2014, have been frozen as part of a two-year Scotland-wide block on new NHS capital projects following a cut in funding from the UK Government.

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In a report to NHS Lothian's board, deputy chief executive Jim Crombie said the loss of the new hospital would "substantively and negatively" affect their ability to deliver "compliant access to scheduled care" in the years ahead.

He also referred to "the significant and detrimental impact this decision has had on our teams, many of whom have dedicated time, expertise, and leadership in supporting progress of these vital projects".

The current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street was declared not fit for purpose in 2014The current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street was declared not fit for purpose in 2014
The current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Chalmers Street was declared not fit for purpose in 2014 | JP License

First Minister Humza Yousaf has insisted the Scottish Government's commitment to the new hospital remains, despite the two-year freeze. But in an open letter to the First Minister, Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack urged him to "level with the public" on the impact that halting work on the project will have and provide a timeline for when the hospital will be built.

She wrote: "I would appreciate if you could give an overview of the timeframe for the eye hospital being delivered if it is still the Scottish Government’s intention to proceed with the project, after the two-year capital spending project freeze. Given the lengthy and increased waiting times for operations, the Scottish Government must also provide immediate support to ensure that NHS Lothian is able to provide adequate care for those with vision impairments.

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"My concern is that confused information and delays will only cause more disruption for patients, on top of increasing numbers of cancelled and delayed appointments."

Ms Boyack's open letter to Mr Yousaf follows an earlier letter from Health Secretary Michael Matheson, which she interpreted as saying the new hospital would not go ahead. She said: “The First Minister needs to level with the public about the replacement eye hospital. It was promised at the last election, then in the budget we found out that no new capital project can go ahead. While the First Minister says he is committed to the project, his government have kicked into long grass."

Ms Boyack said NHS Lothian had been put in an impossible position. “If the First Minister is serious about delivering Edinburgh’s eye hospital, then he must come forth with a concrete timeline to deliver it. Anything less is just being dishonest with the public and damaging to patients.”

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