South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has today unveiled plans to build an iconic new Eye Hospital in the centre of Sunderland as part of the City’s ambitious Riverside Sunderland masterplan.

Sunderland Eye Infirmary is one of very few specialist standalone eye hospitals in the whole country and the region’s only dedicated centre for ophthalmology care.

It is home to the Regional Cataract Treatment Centre and widely regarded 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.

The current facilities on Queen Alexandra Road in the South East of the City are now over 75 years old with a costly and aging infrastructure that does not reflect the world class treatment and outstanding NHS care taking place inside.

Building a brand new, fit-for-purpose Eye Hospital has long been part of the Trust’s strategic ambitions and has now been made possible thanks to partnership working with Sunderland City Council.

All clinical services currently provided from Sunderland Eye Infirmary will transfer to the new state-of-the-art facility to be delivered from a new modern, purpose-built environment in a much more accessible City centre location.

As part of its plans, the Trust is also keen to continue expanding its specialist ophthalmology services in the community through its satellite hubs across South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham, including the introduction of a new clinic at Cleadon Park Primary Care Centre in South Shields.

Staff at Sunderland Eye Infirmary have welcomed plans for a new hospital.  Clinical Director for Ophthalmology services and Consultant Ophthalmologist Mr 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.

“The services we offer are nothing short of world class with outstanding patient feedback and they deserve an environment to match.

“Today’s news is testament to the perseverance and ingenuity of our leadership team, who, by working in partnership with the Council, are now turning our dream of a new facility into reality for patients.”

Plans to build a new Eye Hospital in Sunderland have only been made possible thanks to strong collaboration between the NHS and the local authority.

Funding for the development has been provided by the local authority and will be repaid by the Trust to allow the relocation of the hospital to a much improved City centre location on the former Vaux site.

Mr Ken Bremner MBE, Chief Executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our ambitions for a new Eye Hospital in Sunderland have been a long time in the making.

“Announcing our development plans is a historic moment for the Trust and represents a major investment into the local NHS thanks to our collaboration with Sunderland City Council.

“In these uncertain times and especially as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an extremely positive and welcome development and demonstrates our commitment to working with local partners to deliver the very best healthcare for the people we serve.

“We now look forward to involving patients, staff and the wider public in the design process ahead and as we work together to progress plans to the next stage.”

Over the coming weeks a series of virtual engagement sessions will take place as follows and people can book onto the sessions via

  • Friday 19 March     2pm – 3pm
  • Saturday 27 March     11am – 12 noon
  • Tuesday 30 March     1pm – 2pm
  • Thursday 15 April     2pm – 3pm
  • Tuesday 20 April     6pm – 7pm
  • Tuesday 27 April     10am – 11am
  • Thursday 29 April     2pm – 3pm
  • Tuesday 4 May     1pm – 2pm

The Trust is keen to hear from as many people as possible to ensure the design of the new Eye Hospital provides the optimal experience for patients, staff and visitors.

Work is also taking place with The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to ensure the new hospital design is built around the needs of those with sight impairments.

Plans for a new Eye Hospital in Sunderland have been fully supported by the region’s NHS.

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chairman of the Integrated Care System across the North East and North Cumbria said: “This exciting development builds on Sunderland’s great tradition in eye surgery.

“It also shows how, in the midst of the extraordinary pressures of the pandemic, the NHS is still innovating and looking to the future needs of patients.

“The new Sunderland Eye Infirmary will shine as a beacon of excellence in the North East’s NHS for years to come.”

The announcement represents the latest boost for Riverside Sunderland, which is undergoing rapid regeneration in line with the Council’s delivery plan to transform the area into a dynamic urban quarter, where up to 2,500 people will live, 10,000 will work and thousands will visit.

The new Eye Hospital will stand alongside The Beam; City Hall, which is nearing completion, and two further commercial properties that are being developed as part of Legal & General’s £100m commitment to the site.

Councillor Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council said: “We are delighted to work with the Trust on this exciting development for the City and help deliver a new world class facility for Sunderland Eye Infirmary as part of our Riverside Sunderland plans.

“We look forward to working with the NHS in the weeks and months ahead as plans progress.”

Healthcare leaders will use the feedback gathered over the next few months to shape its plans for a new Eye Hospital before submitting a formal planning application at the end of May.

The Trust hopes to start building work in 2022 (subject to planning approval) and is aiming for the new Eye Hospital to open in 2024.

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