Sunderland set for new £36 million eye hospital as riverside spot is unveiled for 'iconic' centre

Plans have been unveiled for a £36 million eye hospital in Sunderland city centre to replace its ageing site in Queen Alexandra Road.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 8:35 am

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust wants to build the “iconic” modern and purpose-built facility on the former Vaux site as part of the city’s Riverside Sunderland masterplan.

The existing Sunderland Eye Infirmary is one of few specialist standalone hospitals of its type in the country, the region’s only dedicated centre for ophthalmology care and the Regional Cataract Treatment Centre, caring for patients from the North East, Cumbria and beyond.

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But the facilities in Queen Alexandra Road are more than 75-years-old and “does not reflect the world-class treatment and outstanding NHS care taking place inside” trust bosses have said.

Following consultation, including with The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), a planning application is expected to be submitted in May and subject to approval, it is hoped work will start in 2022 and the centre will open in 2024.

The project is a partnership with Sunderland City Council, which is funding the scheme, to be repaid by the trust.

The trust is also expanding its services through satellite hubs, including a new clinic at Cleadon Park Primary Care in South Shields.

The new hospital would offer patients from across the region and beyond access to a city centre site and new modern facilities.

Sir Liam Donaldson, chairman of the Integrated Care System across the North East and North Cumbria, said the new centre would “shine as a beacon of excellence” and said: “This exciting development builds on Sunderland’s great tradition in eye surgery."

Clinical Director for Ophthalmology services and Consultant Ophthalmologist Jean-Pierre Danjoux said: “Staff at the Eye Infirmary are absolutely thrilled at the prospect of a brand new hospital as there is no doubt that our current building is dated and no longer fit for purpose.

Mr Ken Bremner MBE, trust Chief Executive, said the announcement was an “historic moment” and added: “In these uncertain times and especially as we continue to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, this is an extremely positive and welcome development.”

Sir Liam Donaldson, chairman of the Integrated Care System across the North East, has given the service's backing to the plans.

The Riverside development will feature homes for up to 2,500 people and generate 10,000 jobs, with the hospital to neighbour The Beam and City Hall and two further commercial buildings being developed in Legal & General’s £100 million commitment to the site.

Virtual engagement sessions will gather views, with places booked via www.stsft.nhs.uk/neweyehospital:

*Friday, March 19, 2pm to 3pm

How the inside of the new eye hospital could look.

*Saturday, March 27, 11am to noon

*Tuesday, March 30, 1pm to 2pm

*Thursday, April 15, 2pm to 3pm

*Tuesday, April 20, 6pm to 7pm

*Tuesday, April 17, 10am – 11am

*Thursday, April 29, 2pm to 3pm

Sunderland City Council leader Councillor Graeme Miller has said the authority is looking forward to working on the plans with the NHS.

*Tuesday, May 4, 1pm to 2pm

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An artist's impression of how the new eye hospital would look once it is built on the former Vaux site.
Sunderland Eye Infirmary, in Queen Alexandra Road, is more than 75-years-old.