The government told NHS Lothian in December it would not fund the planned replacement for Edinburgh’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion – despite approving the project in principle in 2018 – and claimed developments in eyecare meant many services could now be delivered in the community.
Now sight-loss charity RNIB Scotland has written to the government asking if the strategic approach to delivery of eyecare services in Lothian is a national strategy, which will be applied across the country, meaning a review of acute specialisms continuing to be housed in large regional hospitals such as Raigmore in Inverness, Ninewells in Dundee and Gartnavel in Glasgow.
Or if not, and dispersal is only a plan for the Lothians, the charity is asking what is different about the Lothians that means it does not need to have the specialisms housed in one centre.
The RNIB’s move comes as politicians voice fears the decision not to fund a new eye hospital next to the Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter at Little France is driven more by cost-saving than clinical considerations.
James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, said: "We have written to the Scottish Government to clarify if the approach being undertaken in the Lothians is part of a Scotland-wide shift in strategic eye heath care policy, thereby reviewing future spend on modernising NHS eye clinics across Scotland, or whether it is a specific approach to the Lothians.
“What is paramount is the provision of effective, safe treatments for patients to ensure the best possible outcomes and we look forward to the proposals from the Lothian Health Board on the future of eyecare services."
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs is demanding the new hospital goes ahead.
He said: “I don't think this is a clinical decision, I think it is a purely financial one. NHS Lothian have been put in a very difficult position where they are being tasked with making this look acceptable.
“I don't think in any other part of the country we will see a situation where we have services dispersed like this.”