Questions remain over future of historic Sunderland Eye Infirmary as NHS confirms ‘no plans’ for site as work due to start on £36million replacement
The NHS has ‘no plans’ at the moment for the current Sunderland Eye Infirmary once the service is moved to new premises in the city centre, health bosses have said.
Construction is scheduled to begin on a £36million pound replacement at the former Vaux site, on what will still be the North East’s only dedicated eye hospital and one of very few specialist centres for ophthalmology care in the whole of the NHS.
This leaves uncertainty over the future of the present site on Queen Alexandra Road, which sits in a largely residential area beside Southmoor Academy.
Architecture enthusiasts have expressed concern over the building, citing it as a fine example, inside and out, of 20th century Art Deco. It is owned by the NHS.
A tweet was sent claiming that the 83 year-old building would be demolished. But that is not currently the case and the tweet has since been deleted. In fact, no decision has been made.
South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust confirmed to the Echo: “We own the building. As it stands, there are no plans for the site once the service moves to the new building in the city centre.”
The Queen Alexandra Road facility was officially opened in April 1946 by Princess, later Queen Elizabeth, although building had been completed in 1940. It became part of the National Health Service when it was established in 1948.
There has been an eye infirmary of some type in Sunderland for almost two centuries. The first opened on High Street West in 1836, followed by other premises on Crowtree Terrace, then Stockton Road in 1893.
In 1936, shipping magnate Sir John Priestman donated £50,000 towards which bought the hospital’s current site in Queen Alexandra Road.
He laid the foundation stone in December 1938, pronounced the building complete in June 1940. He died in 1941.
The trust’s chief executive, Ken Bremner, had said the facility at the Vaux site will be “a world-class eye hospital”.
The new Eye Hospital will be a centre of excellence for eye services, caring for patients from across the North East, Cumbria and beyond. Work is expected to start in spring.
According to documents, the facility will be able to accommodate up to 342 staff by 2030, 30 more than at present.