Appeal Court ruling signals end for Bart's: Judicial challenge of closure refused

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The Independent Online
A HIGH COURT decision, upheld by the Court of Appeal yesterday, signalled the closure in five years of one of England's most ancient hospitals, St Bartholomew's in the City of London.

The Court of Appeal refused to allow campaigners to launch a judicial challenge to the plan of Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, to close the hospital's accident and emergency unit.

Immediately, the Royal Hospitals NHS Trust, which administers Bart's and the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, published plans, agreed on Wednesday, to split major medical specialities between the sites until 2000. But a redevelopment at Whitechapel, costing pounds 144m, will mean that 'all the trust's sevices would be provided from Whitechapel', according to Gerry Green, the trust's chief executive.

'The decision was taken after careful consideration of an option appraisal prepared with the advice of independent health consultants,' he said. Earlier estimates priced consolidation at Whitechapel at more than pounds 300m.

Yesterday at the Court of Appeal, 'Save Bart's' campaigners failed in their last- ditch stand to prevent the closure of the A&E unit, the survival of which became a metaphor for the survival of the hospital founded in 1123.

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Thomas Bingham, sitting with Lord Justice Waite and Lord Justice Saville, rejected their case that they had been deprived a fair hearing by the High Court.

Sir Thomas said that the campaigners 'simply failed to make any case' which called for an answer or investigation of the procedure by which the Secretary of State reached her closure decision.

However, the Save Bart's campaign will continue. Its spokeswoman, Dorrie Snell, said afterwards that the focus would now switch to MPs and lobbying Mrs Bottomley.

Tim Eden, professor of paediatric oncology, who is taking up a new post in Manchester, said: 'It is very saddening. People now seem only interested in running the NHS like a department store. Excellence no longer seems to count. Inevitably a lot of services are going to be axed. If they cannot afford a first-class health service then they should say so and give people the choice of paying another 1p or 2p on the income tax.'