The sale of a large part of the Charing Cross hospital site is the only way to avoid using a “disastrous” PFI deal to fund rebuilding plans, campaigners have been told.
In angry scenes, Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of Imperial College NHS trust, said there was a pressing need to upgrade its sister hospital, St Mary’s, and convert Charing Cross into an outpatient day surgery hospital.
He said: “If we are going to spend £650 million to bring our hospitals up to modern standards, that £650 million has got to come from somewhere, and the Government are not handing out money, as we know.
“PFIs for many hospitals are disastrous. There’s a £7 billion PFI and Barts and they pay £100 million in interest [a year] before they even see a patient. We don’t want to go down that route.”
Under Imperial’s plans, land sales would generate £242 million, leaving it to borrow a further £408 million from the Department of Health’s independent trust finance facility.
Charing Cross would be reduced in size by about four-fifths and would lose 336 inpatient beds and have its accident and emergency department downgraded to an “emergency centre” of as yet unknown capacity to treat the most critically ill patients.
Concerns over the A&E at Charing Cross intensified when the emergency unit at Hammersmith and A&E at Central Middlesex hospitals closed on September 10.
Sir Richard, fighting back against hostility from Save Our Hospitals campaigners at Imperial’s AGM on September 24, told them: “We don’t have any choice. We have a 19th century, 18th century estate on one of our sites [St Mary’s], trying to deliver healthcare to the best possible quality for your benefit.
“If we don’t do that we will be in serious, serious trouble. There will be all sorts of problems. We have to rebuild our estate for your benefit, not for mine.”
The changes at St Mary’s, in Paddington, and at Charing Cross, in Hammersmith, are part of a five-year plan to treat more people in the community.
Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, said challenged Dr Tracey Batten, Imperial’s chief executive, to guarantee that “there will be no further closures or run-down of services, particularly at Charing Cross, unless and until you can demonstrate there is not a demand for these services”. He added: “Not to do that will be incredibly irresponsible.”
Dr Batten said the trust was “guided by our clinicians” in all the proposed changes. She said: “We can only change the number of beds within our facilities when these community services are established. That is the way we need to work.”