NHS hospital opens for Kuwaitis

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The Independent Online
A pounds 140m building at Guy's Hospital has been opened early to provide day-time accommodation for the Kuwaiti royal family and their entourage, while a princess is treated in intensive care at the hospital.

The family is occupying rooms in Philip Harris House, the most advanced hospital building in the country, which has yet to treat an NHS patient and is at the centre of a bitter political row.

A spokesman at the Kuwaiti embassy confirmed last night that Princess Mariam, eldest daughter of the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Saab al-Abdullah al-Sabah, is on a life- support machine. The princess, who is a private patient at the south London hospital, suffered severe head injuries after her Jeep overturned in Kuwait last week. She was flown to England five days ago. Her condition is described as critical.

Senior medical staff at Guy's are angry that the building has been opened for the family 'before NHS patients have crossed the threshold'.

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, which includes the hospital, complained that 'one of the richest families in the world are benefiting from the best buildings in the NHS while thousands of patients were denied treatment'.

Philip Harris House, which is close to completion, was built with pounds 30m of charitable funding and was due to house five acute wards, a 100-bed mental health unit, out-patient clinics and laboratories. Under a government plan to merge Guy's and St Thomas's hospitals it may be used only for day surgery and teaching. In March, Sir Philip Harris, a deputy treasurer of the Conservative Party, cancelled a pounds 6m donation for the building which bears his name, in protest at the decision. Several charities have also asked for their money back.

A spokeswoman for the Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Trust accused people of trying to make 'political capital out of a tragic situation'.