Guy's 'risks squandering pounds 133m block'

Click to follow
THE GOVERNMENT is steeling itself for a major row over the future of the country's largest trust hospital, as fears grow that it could be left with the 'biggest white elephant' in the history of the NHS.

A decision on how services will be provided by the Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Trust - using one or both of the hospital sites in London - is imminent. The preferred option, believed to have the support of Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, is to concentrate on one site, and St Thomas's is widely acknowledged to have better facilities.

However, this would make redundant Philip Harris House, a seven-storey building at Guy's which is due to open in the spring at a cost of more than pounds 133m. The state-of-the art development is due to house five acute wards, a mental unit, outpatient clinics and laboratories.

To ensure the survival of the trust, the Government is prepared to 'bite the bullet' on the criticism it would face over money wasted on Philip Harris House, according to one consultant. Some estimates of its capital value are as low as pounds 4m.

Another Guy's staff member said there were rumours that part of the new development was to be leased or bought as office space by Price Waterhouse, which has its headquarters next door to the hospital at London Bridge. 'The decision over what happens has largely been made and Guy's will be history,' he said. Both the hospital and Price Waterhouse denied this.

A spokeswoman for Guy's said that a comment in a recent staff newsletter by Tim Matthews, the trust's chief executive, that 'Philip Harris House will be used, as close as possible, to its planned clinical use' referred to changes in services if both sites are used.

At a meeting last month the Trust Board approved plans to retain parts of both Guy's and St Thomas's, with a 'radical change' in services. This is despite opposition by clinicians at both hospitals, the regional health authority, the NHS Executive and the London Implementation Group overseeing reorganisation of the capital's health care.

Lord Hayhoe, a former Tory health minister, is committed to the survival of both sites.

The recommendations of the Trust Board were submitted to the Department of Health last month and Mrs Bottomley is expected to respond to the Trust plans within weeks. A three-month public consultation plan follows.

A consultant at Guy's, who asked not to be named, said that the trust had come up with an 'elaborate fudge' to preserve both sites only because Philip Harris House had to be protected at all costs. 'If it isn't, they are going to be left with the biggest white elephant ever.'