A planning application for Sunderland’s new state-of-the-art Eye Hospital has been submitted to the council, following feedback from patients and the public that has shaped proposals for the £36m facility.

Working in partnership with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), Sunderland City Council has lodged an application containing proposed hospital designs for the world-class NHS development that is expected to be reviewed by its planning committee in the autumn.

The application takes on board the views of hundreds of patients and members of the public from across the region, as well as The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), following an extensive patient and public involvement process led by STSFT.

Feedback has been overwhelming positive with 92 per cent of people feeling positive about the development and 94 per cent stating they would be happy to use the new Eye Hospital.

Some of the key themes heard during engagement were around important design aspects such as lighting, acoustics and signage.

After listening to local people, proposed designs now include a number of accessibility aids, including more sensory wayfinding and landscaping to help people with visual impairments navigate the site, as well as around the wider Riverside Sunderland area, which is undergoing a programme of transformation that will create a dynamic mixed-use site, where thousands of people will live, work and play.

Open involvement in the early design process has been warmly welcomed by stakeholders.

Ongoing patient involvement and input from the RNIB will continue as a pivotal part of STSFT’s ambition to ensure the very best NHS facility in this once in a life time development.

The new Eye Hospital will replace the existing Sunderland Eye Infirmary facilities on Queen Alexandra Road in the South East of the city, and will remain one of very few specialist standalone eye hospitals in the whole country and the region’s only dedicated specialist centre for ophthalmology care.

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.

The new Eye Hospital will continue to be home to the 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.

If planning is approved, it is expected that work will begin on the construction of the new hospital in spring next year, with the building set to open during 2024.

The new space will deliver a modern, purpose-built environment in a much more accessible location, enhancing STSFT’s ophthalmology service that is also expanding its specialist support in the community through satellite hubs across South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham, including the introduction of a new clinic at Cleadon Park Primary Care Centre in South Shields.

Ken Bremner MBE, chief executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an important step forward in realising our ambitions for a new Eye Hospital in Sunderland.

“I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to get involved and given their views so far.

“The feedback is invaluable and means we can develop a building which truly meets the needs of those who will be using it.

“Our staff at the Eye Infirmary have also been pivotal to this work.  It is their expertise that is the driving force behind our plans to make sure we keep looking to the future needs of our patients and create an innovative facility that will serve the region for many years to come.

“Our engagement with patients and the public will not stop here and we look forward to keeping everyone involved as plans progress.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Proposals to move the Eye Hospital to Riverside Sunderland are really exciting and the feedback from medical staff, patients and the public at large during an extensive engagement exercise carried out by STSFT, in partnership with colleagues from the council, has been fantastic.

“Riverside Sunderland is transforming into a stunning city focal point, and the addition of this world-class medical facility is a positive step not only for the hospital – which will be far better located for patient-access – but for the city centre, which will benefit from the increased footfall brought about by thousands of patients and staff accessing the Hospital every week.”

The plans for the hospital have been developed by the Council with an award winning team, including North East architects Ryder and Turner & Townsend Project Management, 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, and plans have been fully supported by the region’s NHS.

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.

For more information visit: www.stsft.nhs.uk/neweyehospital or email stsft.SEI@nhs.net or to stay up to date with the latest developments from Riverside Sunderland, visit www.riversidesunderland.com.

To view a copy of the STSFT patient and public involvement feedback report visit https://www.stsft.nhs.uk/application/files/1616/2495/3953/FINAL_-_SEI_patient_and_public_engagement_report_-_June_2021.pdf