Published on: 27 November 2023
Work has today begun to build a new standalone specialist eye hospital in Sunderland which will continue to care for the region’s patients for decades to come.
Staff and patients from Sunderland Eye Infirmary gathered at the site of the new Eye Hospital at Riverside Sunderland, along with leaders from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and Sunderland City Council to celebrate the breaking of ground.
The new Eye Hospital will secure the legacy of specialist eye care in Sunderland, first established more than 200 years ago in the East End of the city and well before the birth of the NHS. It will replace the existing Sunderland Eye Infirmary facilities on Queen Alexandra Road, which were built during the Second World War and now over 80 years old.
All clinical services at Sunderland Eye Infirmary will move to the new city centre location, including the Regional Cataract Treatment Centre which will continue to play a pivotal role in helping to reduce waiting lists across the region. It is recognised nationally for the high-volume of surgery it performs.
Chief Executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Ken Bremner MBE was joined by Trust Chair Allison Thompson to lead the ground-breaking ceremony.
“This is a momentous day not only for the NHS, but for the city of Sunderland and our whole region. The new Eye Hospital will help us treat patients for decades ahead and provide a much better experience for patients and staff alike.
“We now look forward to seeing the building work progress and seeing the plans which have been created with the support of our patients, staff and partners become a reality.”
Ken, who is also Chair of the North East and North Cumbria Provider Collaborative says the new Eye Hospital has a big role to play in supporting the NHS in the region. He said:
“We know that ophthalmology services are under immense pressure, with more than 29,000 people now waiting for eye treatment across the North East and North Cumbria.
“By building this new facility in Sunderland, we hope this will go a long way to supporting the wider NHS as we work together, through the region’s Provider Collaborative, to make sure patients get the speedy treatment they need.”
Sam Allen, Chief Executive of the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board said: “Sunderland has a fantastic reputation across the NHS, both regionally and nationally, as a centre of excellence for eye services. The new Eye Hospital will undoubtedly be a real asset for our region’s NHS and it is fantastic to see how the Trust has worked in partnership with stakeholders and the local community to make it happen.”
NHS staff, patients and partners from the voluntary sector including the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), have been heavily involved in helping design the new building. Among the patients who will benefit is 38 year old Michael Boys, 38, who lives in Morpeth, Northumberland.
He has been under the care of Sunderland Eye Infirmary since birth. He was born with congenital cataracts. He then developed glaucoma as a teenager and has regular check-ups as part of this ongoing care.
“I think the new hospital will be absolutely brilliant for everyone who needs it. The only downside to the current hospital is getting there. I can get to Sunderland city centre easily enough, but getting from the city can be difficult, the bus isn’t always great or I have to get a taxi. The new location is so much better.
“Everybody you talk to at Sunderland Eye Infirmary treats you as a person, you’re not just a name on a sheet. From the receptionists, to the nurses and the specialists, the care they offer is very special. I wouldn’t go anywhere else for the treatment and care I get from them.”
Sunderland’s new Eye Hospital has been made possible thanks to strong collaboration between the NHS and Sunderland City Council. Kier has been appointed as the construction partner.
The design development is being led by Ryder Architecture and Turner and Townsend.
Councillor Kevin Johnston, portfolio holder for Riverside Sunderland, was also at today’s ground-breaking event. He said:
“This is a fantastic day for the city of Sunderland and our local NHS. The new Eye Hospital marks the start of another key milestone in our Riverside Sunderland development and we are very proud to work in partnership with the NHS to deliver this.
“I have no doubt this will be an outstanding healthcare facility and continue to build on Sunderland’s legacy as a leading provider of eye care in the UK.”
Dan Doherty, regional director for Kier Construction North & Scotland, said:
“We are proud to be working in partnership with Sunderland City Council to deliver such a significant healthcare building for the city and the wider region.
“We have extensive experience delivering first-class healthcare facilities and during our time on this project, we will also be providing local employment and training opportunities for the local community.”
Ian Crow, Partner of Ryder Architecture, added:
“Ryder is immensely proud to have worked with Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust to design the new Eye Hospital.
“The design is inspired by an in depth engagement process with staff, patients, visitors, local people and voluntary sector partners such as RNIB. The proposals draw upon the strong sense of community and exceptional clinical reputation enjoyed by Eye Infirmary, paired with state of the art facilities, delivered within a vibrant and accessible city centre community.”
“We look forward to working with Kier to deliver an exceptional facility for Sunderland and the wider North East region”
Darren Laybourn, Director, Head of Health for Turner and Townsend, added:
“Turner and Townsend are proud to have worked with Sunderland City Council, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust, the design team and Kier Construction to achieve this stage of the project, providing project and cost management throughout.
“We look forward to working with the team to deliver this outstanding facility, improving patient outcomes, for many years to come.”
Construction of the new Eye Hospital is expected to take two years. Click here to see a flythrough video of how the new Eye Hospital will look.
The Eye Hospital is one of a number of significant new developments at Riverside Sunderland, and part of a council-led scheme to transform the city centre. The award-winning urban regeneration project aims to double the area’s residential population and increase employment by 50 per cent.
The Vision Appeal is up and running to fund equipment above and beyond the kit which will be part of the hospital. More details are available via https://www.stsft.nhs.uk/our-charity/appeals-campaigns/vision-appeal.
Donations can be made to appeal through https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/stsCharity-Vision-Appeal