Hospital Trust "Categorically" Denies Sell-off Rumours

But newspaper accuses Imperial of changing its response

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Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Andy Slaughter

Greg Hands

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Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs local hospitals including Charing Cross, Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea, has denied rumours that it plans to sell off any of its hospitals.

The trust has issued a statement saying: " Following media coverage today, we would like to categorically deny that we have any plans to close St Mary's Hospital or any of our hospital sites.

" We have not engaged any firms of architects to look at our estate with a view to converting it into residential properties.

" We would like to reassure all patients and staff that providing the highest quality clinical care across all our sites remains our absolute priority."

However, the trust has been accused of changing its response over the weekend by the Independent newspaper, which says when first contacted on Friday, Imperial appeared to confirm that it was looking at "development potential" of its sites.

Yesterday, Monday Setember 5, the paper ran a story claiming that it was considering closing either St Mary's or Charing Cross hospital.

The report said that six firms of architects, among them the Danish company CF Moller, have been asked to provide a quote for turning St Mary's into 3,000 flats. It said the trust, facing debts of £100 million, wants to know how much it could raise from the sale of the site, which sits on a prime commercial site in Paddington Basin before it makes a final decision.

The report claimed the trust could then save millions by moving its activities to an expanded site at Hammersmith Hospital in Shepherd's Bush, situated next to Wormwood Scrubs prison.

The Independent also said that as Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham Palace Road is in urgent need of an upgrade to bring it into line with fire regulations, a second option involves an arrangement between Imperial and West Middlesex trust which would lead to the closure of Charing Cross and the transfer of routine surgery to the West Middlesex in Isleworth, with emergency services going to Hammersmith.

On Friday, the Independent says the trust responded to its proposed story with a statement which said: " We started a tender process to appoint architect and engineer firms to look at the development potential of all of our sites" and that it was undertaking a "long-term strategy review".

The statement said the trust had identified £45m of savings towards a £70m target for the year which would leave a £30m deficit, and was reviewing "how to make the best use of our buildings".

The statement added: "Like many acute trusts in London, Imperial College Healthcare is facing significant financial challenges linked to reduced income and the increased move of patient care from hospital settings into the community."

Following this story, Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter to ask for a meeting with Trust representatives and Health Minister Andrew Andrew Lansley and to say: " Imperial has issued strong denials that it has plans to close any hospitals. I have no reason not to believe them, but the Independent claims it will stand by its story.

" Regardless of whether there exist any plans to close a hospital, the Imperial Healthcare Trust must address a £100m funding gap, and there remain question marks over how this is going to be achieved.

"The MP for St Mary’s Hospital, Karen Buck  and I have asked Imperial for an immediate meeting to try to get to the bottom of this. We have also requested a meeting with Andrew Lansley. I will keep you updated on any developments."

Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands meanwhile has also noted the story and tweeted: " I have been campaigning for 7 yrs against downgrading of Charing Cross Hosp, but I am waiting to see the facts on Independent story today."

September 6, 2011