Published on: 12 September 2023
Leaders at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT) and Sunderland City Council have confirmed a key milestone in the development of a state-of-the-art new Eye Hospital for the region.
The project was given the green light to enter contracts with the construction partner Kier following approval at a Council Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
It means the development will now gather pace with work expected to start on site before Christmas.
The new Eye Hospital in Sunderland will continue to be home to a nationally renowned Regional Cataract Treatment Centre and will strengthen Sunderland’s existing reputation across the NHS, both regionally and nationally, as a centre of excellence for eye services, caring for patients from across the North East, Cumbria and beyond.
Planning approval for the new Eye Hospital was originally granted in November 2021 with a subsequent planning application approved in November 2022.
This was to future proof any potential future expansion requirements, given the increase in demand on NHS eye services.
The news comes following an extended period of further due diligence over the summer to ensure the new Eye Hospital meets the needs of the local population.
Staff at Sunderland Eye Infirmary have been working closely with architects and planners to give their time and expertise in this critical design phase.
With the green light now given for the build to progress, it means NHS and Council leaders can get started on the next phase which will see construction partner Kier move onto the Riverside Sunderland site to prepare the groundworks for the build.
The construction phase for the new Eye Hospital is expected to take two years once work starts.
In the coming weeks, the public will soon see hoardings for the new Eye Hospital development go up on the Riverside Sunderland site in the City centre.
Ken Bremner MBE, Chief Executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said:
"We are delighted that we can now move forward with construction of our new Eye Hospital and finally start to see work happening on site.
"I want to thank our staff at Sunderland Eye Infirmary who have worked so hard to help us get the design and infrastructure right for the new facility and all those patients and members of the public who gave us their feedback which has also been taken into consideration.
"It has taken some time to get to this point, but we will now start to see things moving at pace.
"As a Board we have remained resolute in our ambition to provide a new fit-for-purpose Eye Hospital in Sunderland.
"The city has always been home to specialist eye services in our region and we are very proud to continue this legacy for many future generations."
The development will replace the existing Sunderland Eye Infirmary facilities on Queen Alexandra Road, which are now over 75 years old. All clinical services currently provided from the existing Sunderland Eye Infirmary will transfer to the new state-of-the-art facility to be delivered from a purpose-built environment in a much more accessible city centre location.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said:
"The new Eye Hospital is a flagship part of our Riverside Sunderland development and we are delighted to work in partnership with the NHS to make this happen, creating a space that is befitting of the exceptional level of care that the nationally renowned Eye Hospital team deliver, as well as a place that we can be proud to welcome people to.
"We’re immensely proud of the transformation we are leading of our city centre in Sunderland. The new Eye Hospital is just one part of a huge programme of change that is creating places where people will live, work and play."
Kier was appointed as the preferred contractor following a competitive tendering process.
The company is a leading provider of infrastructure services, construction and property development and places a strong focus on sustainably delivering infrastructure across the UK.
To view a 3D ‘fly-through’ animation of how the new Eye Hospital will look once completed and change the city's skyline, see the YouTube clip below.