Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Hospital chiefs heckled as they approve massive NHS property sell-off

Some 45 per cent of St Mary's Hospital is to be sold off

Published: 1 August, 2014

HOSPITAL chiefs rubber-stamped a massive sell-off of National Health Service buildings in Westminster this week. 
Plans to sell 45 per cent of the site in Praed Street, Paddington, along with the Western Eye Hospital in Marylebone were approved by the board of Imperial Healthcare Trust in a highly charged three-hour meeting on Wednesday.
The scheme, branded Shaping a Healthier Future by the trust, will also see Charing Cross A&E ­drastically scaled back and St Mary’s undergo a multi-million pound redevelopment to become the regional centre for emergency treatment. 
There were emotional scenes at the meeting in Hammersmith Hospital, which is also to lose its emergency room, as members of the public and patients, who had been campaigning against the changes, heckled the board.
Across the three hospitals the building works are expected to cost £408million, with 40 per cent of this coming from the sale of existing NHS property. 
As part of the deal, several health care services will be leaving St Mary’s including intensive care or newborn babies, which will be based in Hammersmith, while some “day-case” surgeries and appointments, in which patients go home the same day, will move to Charing Cross.
Last year Nick Cheshire, who was standing in as the trust’s chief executive, was forced to apologise for failing to consult the public before they axed some health care services at St Mary’s, blaming a “lack of focus and incompetence”. 
Westminster North MP Karen Buck said she fears there is nothing in place to help local people who currently depend on visits to St Mary’s and will now be sent to Charing Cross. 
She said: “West London closures are going ahead, changing St Mary’s in the short and longer term, but we don’t, for example, have a plan for supporting local patients needing help getting to routine surgery at Charing Cross, where they will be sent, as St Mary’s becomes the ‘major hospital’ centre for west London.”
Concerns have been raised about the impact of the additional patients that will attend the hospital when Hammersmith A&E closes in September, with St Mary’s already at full capacity. However, the trust has reassured patients they will be prepared for the increased demand. 
Overall, the number of in-patient beds at St Mary’s will increase from 401 to 507 by 2020, while the number of beds for “day-case” patients will fall from 40 to 33. At Charing Cross the number of in-patient beds will be slashed from 360 to 24. In total, across the three hospitals, the number of in-patient beds will fall from 1,167 to 958 and the amount of floor space will fall by 66,000 square metres. 
Defending the changes, trust chairwoman Dr Tracey Batten said the “status quo is not an option” and supported NHS England’s vision of moving patients away from hospitals in favour of care “closer to home”. 
She said: “We have to transform the way that we care for the vastly increasing number of people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, and for our growing frail, elderly population.
“Our estate hasn’t had the development it has needed over the past decade or so – a large part of our building stock is now over 100 years old. We have to get it right this time.”
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