Queen concerned at closure threat to Bart's

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The Independent Online
THE QUEEN is opposed to the planned closure of St Bartholomew's hospital in London, and has informed the Dean of its Medical College of her concern over its future.

She told the Dean, Professor Lesley Rees, that she regretted the threat to Bart's, which the Royal Family has patronised for over 400 years.

The discussion took place at a private lunch at Buckingham Palace, as the Government was finalising its plans to cut London's hospitals.

Her comments will be revealed in Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy, a forthcoming book by Dr Frank Prochaska, Research Fellow at University College, London. Buckingham Palace has recently read the proofs of book and did not ask for the record of the private conversation between the Queen and Professor Rees in 1992 to be removed.

Professor Rees said last week: "The Queen asked me what the situation at Bart's was and of course I said that things were very difficult and she expressed regret. I know she has seen the proofs of the book and I know she doesn't disapprove of my saying that."

A high-level source at Bart's said that the Queen had expressed her dismay on other occasions over the Government decision to axe the hospital, which faces closure by the end of the decade. "There are other things the Queen has said that suggest that she is very opposed to closure," the source said.

A Department of Health spokesman yesterday confirmed that the Queen had met Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, earlier this year, but the conversation will remain private.

Dr Prochaska's book was researched using previously unseen documents from the Royal Archives. It says: "A large number of correspondents, many of them former patients, have appealed to her [the Queen] for support in the campaign to save Bart's. She is undoubtedly concerned about the hospital's plight: she has said so privately to the Dean of the Medical College."

After seeing the book, Buckingham Palace asked the author to reveal his source for the conversation, worried that there had been an internal leak. It was satisfied when told that the account had come from Professor Rees and said "that's fine".

The Royal Family's link to Bart's stretches back to 1546 when Henry VIII refounded the hospital. Edward VII was President of Bart's when Prince of Wales, and Edward VIII and George VI were both patrons.