Death-knell for Bart's as job cuts are sought

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The Independent Online
STAFF at St Bartholomew's Hospital, from consultants to cleaners, are being urged to volunteer for redundancy or take early retirement, marking the begining of the end for the 870-year-old teaching hospital.

The Bart's NHS Group aims to shed hundreds of staff to save pounds 3m and prepare the hospital for merger with the nearby Royal London Trust. On Monday two urologists resigned in protest.

Staff received letters yesterday outlining redundancy and retirement options, just hours after claims that six key departments at Bart's are being recommended for closure, after government reviews of the duplication of medical specialisms in London. This would effectively close the Smithfield site, finally ruling out any chance of an independent existence as a small, specialist hospital.

Harefield Hospital, the world's leading heart transplant centre, is also understood to be earmarked for closure, while the Royal Marsden, a cancer hospital, may be merged with Charing Cross Hospital. The Department of Health said those reports were 'speculation only'.

A member of Bart's staff, who asked not to be named, said last night: 'We are all stunned by the news. It was expected that domiciliary and ancillary staff would get a letter but not everyone, not the professional and technical staff too. I am just very sad. It really is the end.'

Carol Bailey, deputy director of human resources for the group, said that the move had 'nothing at all to do' with the specialist review. 'It has everything to do with being efficient and cost-effective and is part of the down-sizing that was begun some months ago. We cannot comment on reports that that six departments are to go.' The authority employs between four and five thousand people.

The Tomlinson inquiry into health services in inner London last year earmarked Bart's as one of 15 hospitals for closure or merger. Despite a campaign by patients and staff, the Government gave North East Thames regional health authority three options for its future: closure, survival as a small specialist hospital, or merger with the Royal London. Merger negotiations began in February.

Private care order, page 10