Keeping up the fight for new eye pavilion - Miles Briggs

Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion. Picture: Greg MacveanPrincess Alexandria Eye Pavilion. Picture: Greg Macvean
Princess Alexandria Eye Pavilion. Picture: Greg Macvean
Edinburgh Evening News readers will be acutely aware of the challenges faced by campaigners and Lothian MSPs in trying to secure funding for a replacement Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion. It has now been ten years since the current hospital was declared unfit for purpose.

Last Wednesday I met with local campaigners, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and other Lothian MSPs to discuss the delivery of a new hospital. Since the promise of a new eye hospital in 2018 we have seen SNP ministers withdraw funding, reinstate funding following prolonged pressure from campaigners, and then earlier this year, pause funding for a further two years.

Over the last decade successive SNP governments have failed to deliver a new eye hospital for Lothian and the south east of Scotland. The current hospital has only fallen into further disrepair during this period, with a long list of outstanding maintenance work required.

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There are over 120 outstanding maintenance issues requiring attention, which are set to cost over £2.3 million in total, with the roof being one of the largest areas of concern. In one case, leakage was so severe a patient, doctor and students were forced to evacuate. Numerous operations have been cancelled due to leaks, further extending the already extensive waiting times for eye treatments. The outpatient average waiting times have increased by 174 per cent between 2014 and 2023, with many operations having significantly longer waiting times.

What is abundantly clear is that NHS Lothian and the south east of Scotland are in desperate need of a new hospital. Scotland has an estimated 183,000 people who live with sight loss and the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion (PAEP) serves an estimated 45,260 of these individuals. Glasgow and the west of Scotland have had significantly more investment in ophthalmology than Edinburgh and the east.

PAEP has historically been a centre for excellence, acting as a training facility for young doctors training in ophthalmology. It is also where people are sent for emergency eye surgery, which needs to happen quickly to save a person’s sight. If people are being sent to Glasgow for emergency surgery, this will reduce the chances of a successful operation.

Replacing the PAEP would be a lifeline to many, and for the last five years I have campaigned and demanded action for my constituents. SNP ministers are choosing not to put their money where their mouth is and back the NHS. The current state of the eye pavilion is bad for patients and bad for health professionals at the hospital who are working in sub standard facilities. Significant investment is needed to improve ophthalmology care in the region, especially as the number of people in Scotland with sight loss is expected to grow in the coming years.

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I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health following our meeting to ask him if he will visit the current PAEP to see for himself the urgent need for a replacement hospital. There are a numerous urgent repairs needed before a new hospital is delivered. The sooner SNP ministers agree to funding a new hospital the less will need to be spent holding the old hospital together. I will continue to campaign to ensure that this essential infrastructure project is delivered.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian