Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Humza Yousaf insists Scottish Government commitment remains

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Concerns about replacement for Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion raised at First Minister's Questions

The Scottish Government's commitment to Edinburgh's promised new eye hospital remains, First Minister Humza Yousaf has told MSPs despite a letter sent by Health Secretary Michael Matheson which was interpreted as saying the hospital was not going to go ahead.

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack last week accused the Scottish Government of betraying patients after she received a letter from Mr Matheson which she said showed ministers were rowing back on their pledge to build the new hospital to replace the not-fit-for-purpose Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

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After highlighting the the lower-than-expected capital grant from the UK Government for the next two years and repeating that the Scottish Government's focus was now on tackling backlog maintenance and essential equipment replacement, the letter went on to talk about additional slots at Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Glasgow.

And it concluded: "I appreciate that this is not the response you were seeking. However, the funding position is extremely challenging and the actions we are taking are necessary to ensure that the health portfolio stays within its capital budget."

Humza Yousaf insisted at First Minister's Questions that the Scottish Government's commitment to the new eye hospital remained.Humza Yousaf insisted at First Minister's Questions that the Scottish Government's commitment to the new eye hospital remained.
Humza Yousaf insisted at First Minister's Questions that the Scottish Government's commitment to the new eye hospital remained. | Scottish Parliament

The issue was raised at First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, when Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs voiced concern about eye surgery being centralised in Glasgow and called for ministers to "change their mind" and commit to a new hospital.

Mr Briggs said: "Last year, 59,240 patients attended the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion. For a patient in Edinburgh or the Borders with a detached retina, the need for urgent emergency surgery is critical. The Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care has suggested that, if the Edinburgh eye pavilion is not replaced, more surgery will be centralised in the Golden Jubilee national hospital in Glasgow. Does the First Minister think that it would be acceptable for eye surgery to be centralised in Glasgow? Will he agree to meet Lothian MSPs urgently to discuss those concerns and get ministers to change their mind and commit to a new, replacement eye hospital?"

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Mr Yousaf replied: "The clue is, of course, in the name. We are building national treatment centres and, where they can offer assistance across the country, they should be utilised in that way. We know that patients are willing to travel if necessary.

"Our commitment to the eye pavilion remains. That is why we will bring forward details on what we can take forward with regard to our investment plans.

"I am more than happy to ensure that the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care meets Miles Briggs, but it would be more helpful if Miles Briggs demanded that his UK Government Conservative colleagues reverse their 10 per cent cut to our capital budget. They could do that in the spring budget next month. Let us see whether Miles Briggs and the Scottish Conservatives, who come to the chamber demanding that money be spent on capital projects, have any influence. Somehow, I think not."

The Scottish Government originally agreed to a new eye hospital in Edinburgh in 2018, but then cancelled it, only to perform a U-turn during the 2021 Holyrood election and promise it would go ahead after all. An outline business case was approved, but work on the project was halted by the Scottish Government in December pending a review of capital projects.

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