Development plan: The tower at Charing Cross hospital Picture: Google Street View
One of London’s most famous hospitals could be turned into designer flats as part of a controversial shake-up of A&E care, the Standard can reveal.
A developer has approached GPs considering how to downsize Charing Cross hospital to suggest converting its 16-storey tower block into homes rather than having it demolished.
The details emerged as it was confirmed that the A&Es departments at Charing Cross and Ealing are to be replaced with “emergency centres” run by GPs and specialist nurses.
These will not have surgeons or intensive care units and will be unable to receive “blue light” — full emergency— ambulances. The Department of Health insists that the hospitals will continue to provide “A&E services” but campaigners believe the units are being downgraded.
Dr Mark Spencer, clinical lead for the Shaping A Healthier Future programme that is centralising major emergency care at five west London hospitals, said there were a number of options for Charing Cross. He told the Standard: “One option is you could use the rest of the site [for housing] and maintain the tower block. Other options are that the tower block could be turned into residential housing and other parts of the site could be used.
“We’ve had people come and say: ‘Why knock it down? We could convert it.’ If you go to the top floor and have a view across London, it’s quite nice. But those are all in discussion. No decision has been made.”
Imperial College NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross, has already agreed to sell off more than half the site, in Fulham Palace Road, and axe all but 24 of the hospital’s 360 inpatient beds.
Dr Spencer said the hospital was likely to specialise in urology — prostate and bladder disease — and retain its chemotherapy services.
He said Ealing’s maternity department would close next year, with its 12-bed inpatient paediatric ward “likely” to close soon after. Breast cancer surgery was also “likely”expected to be axed. The hospital was “likely” to specialise in orthopaedic day surgery, with surgeons visiting from Northwick Park and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
Ealing’s new “emergency centre” would be part of an “emergency network”, with consultants at the five “specialist emergency centres” — St Mary’s, Northwick Park, Chelsea and Westminster, Hillingdon and West Middlesex — available on the phone or via “teleconferencing”. It is likely to open in three years.
Most patients using Ealing were likely to be elderly, suffering confusion or urinary tract infections. Children with minor illnesses could also be seen.
He said the changes at Ealing and Charing Cross would fit into the England-wide plan for emergency care being finalised by Sir Bruce Kehoe and Professor Keith Willett, which is due to be published within two months.
Dr Spencer said: “[Kehoe and Willett] are talking about emergency centres, and Ealing hospital will be an emergency centre, working in a network with specialist emergency centres. We would have specialist emergency centres at our five major hospitals.”
He said Ealing received an average of three “blue light” ambulances a day, while Charing Cross received “three to four”. If necessary, future patients would be “seen and stabilised” and then transferred to one of the specialist emergency centres.
“What [Ealing and Charing Cross] won’t take is someone with crushing heart pain or somebody who looks so seriously ill they need an intensive care unit,” Dr Spencer said.
“The biggest thing we are changing in north-west London isn’t the hospitals. The biggest thing is the investment in GP practices and the community.
“That is where we can really make a difference in mortality if we can get primary care services to manage diabetes better, manage hyper-tension better. It has a much bigger impact than patching up somebody when they are ill.”