Save Edinburgh’s Eye Pavilion: As Scottish Parliament elections loom, now is the time to put pressure on the SNP – Miles Briggs MSP

Evening News readers will be aware of the growing scandal surrounding the withdrawal of £45 million of funding by SNP ministers for the replacement Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 4:45 pm
The Princess Alexandria NHS Eye Pavilion on Chalmers Street should be replaced by a new building (Picture: Greg Macvean)

The decision has been widely condemned and no more so than in the article by Dr Hector Chawla, the former director of the Pavilion, which appeared in the Evening News last week.

The article criticised the SNP government’s decision, describing it as “taking a step back into the dark ages” and driven by saving money, instead of providing quality care.

It’s clear the much-loved Eye Pavilion needs to be replaced and indeed was found to be unfit for purpose in 2015, after an agreement was reached between SNP ministers and NHS Lothian in 2018 for a replacement.

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The Scottish government approved initial plans in 2018 for the Pavilion, with NHS Lothian spending over £1 million on preparations and architectural services.

So what has actually changed? Increasingly it seems SNP minsters simply do not want to fund a new facility and have no real vision for how services will be delivered.

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I have raised the issue of the need for a new eye hospital with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions on two occasions. Both times, the First Minister did not seem to be aware of the actions of her own government to undermine the work and planning which NHS Lothian have been progressing to build a new eye hospital.

The Scottish government claims the new Elective Care Centre in Livingston will deliver these eye services instead. However, as Dr Chawla rightly warns, travelling longer distances for treatment means more people risking blindness. At present, I know that for many visually impaired people, traveling to the Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh is hard enough. For SNP ministers to expect those with poor sight to travel miles beyond the city boundaries shows their complete lack of understanding of patients’ complex needs.

The arguments for a new hospital and the benefits it would bring are irrefutable, as was clear when I recently held a Members Debate in the Scottish Parliament. My debate attracted cross-party support and resulted in a cross-party call for SNP ministers to stop, pause and U-turn their decision to withhold funding for a new hospital.

I have been hugely grateful for the many messages of support for the campaign I have received since I launched my campaign for a new Eye Hospital for Edinburgh. I know from the emails and letters which I have received just how strong the level of feeling is across Lothian.

We all rightly value the world-class services which are provided by the wonderful ophthalmic team at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion. They deserve to be respected and given certainty that a new Eye Hospital will be delivered, so that they can continue to support patients and families across Lothian and the East of Scotland.

I hope you will make your voice heard and support my petition to force SNP ministers to think again and fund a hospital. As we head towards the Holyrood elections in May, I believe calls for the SNP to agree to restore funding for it will grow louder and louder.

Miles Briggs is Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian

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