Bart's may become charity-run hospital

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The Independent Online
A new charity to save St Bartholemew's Hospital and run it partly as a charitable hospital is to be launched in the next few weeks.

The Barts Foundation will then work with the City of London and the special trustees of the existing hospital to draw up a business plan which will determine whether the 800-year old hospital has a long term future.

A report financed by the health service think tank, the King's Fund, has already proposed a future for Barts, modelled on the pre-war voluntary hospitals with the institution undertaking private work and NHS contracts while providing charitable treatment for non-paying patients.

But the new study will determine what the level of demand for paid-for services actually is, Bernard Harty, the City Corporation's Town Clerk, or chief executive, said yesterday. It is hoped to have the results available by the summer.

"The question is what services are the city and business community and others actually prepared to pay for?" he said. Obvious candidates would be the occupational health services, which companies already run but which Barts might be able to provide more competitively, a minor injuries unit, a wide range of out-patient services, and a nursing home in which the City of London - with an ageing population - would buy places on contract.

Mr Harty stressed that the City of London had made no offer for the site or promised any money yet to help acquire it. "We would not decide the size of the site we wanted until we knew what services it would be possible to finance and provide there."

The Barts Foundation - being launched by doctors at the hospital and City figures who include the Lord Mayor of London - will aim to raise the millions needed first to buy the site and then help run it.

Dr Max Gammon, a trustee designate of the foundation, which he said should be established in about six weeks' time, said raising the capital would not be difficult, but ensuring the funds were there to run services on the site "will be an immensely difficult nut to crack".

Backers of the scheme hope the Treasury might part with Barts for as little as pounds 2m to pounds 3m as its high content of listed buildings mean that for many uses the site is likely to have a negative value, despite its prime location. A proposal for the London School of Economics to move there, foundered over the pounds 100m-plus adaptation cost.

Questions are likely to remain, however, over the willingness of the NHS to dispose of the site for health care if that was seen to prejudice the redevelopment of the Royal London Hospital when Barts finally closes for NHS services.