Guy's under new threat

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The Independent Online
THE DEPARTMENT of Health is battling to keep alive a pounds 140m medical research centre at Guy's Hospital following the withdrawal of a pounds 6m charity contribution from a deputy treasurer of the Conservative Party, writes Paul Routledge.

Sir Philip Harris, former chief executive of Harris Queensway, asked for the return of his money from the project after Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, decided to downgrade the facility in a central London hospital merger plan.

The Philip and Pauline Harris Charitable Trust is now seeking the return of 'something over pounds 2m' already paid out of a proposed pounds 6m contribution towards the new centre.

Other charities, including the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the British Kidney Patients Association, are also reconsidering their role in the project.

Their anger stems from Mrs Bottomley's decision on 9 February to concentrate acute services of Guy's and St Thomas's hospitals on the St Thomas's site, across the Thames from Westminster.

The move means that Philip Harris House, a pounds 140m five-storey building at Guy's, near London Bridge, designed to house services for both research and treatment, will now be only a research and education centre with some residual treatment facilities.

Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Health Minister, refused to comment yesterday on the defection of Sir Philip Harris, but a Health Department spokeswoman said the department's London Implementation Group, chaired by Sir Tim Chessells, and the board of the Guys' and St Thomas's Trust were talking to all the major donors to find the best way of using the facilities at Guy's.

Philip Harris House would still be used for research services and education, she added. 'We cannot speculate on what would happen if the charity sponsors do pull out.'

A number of charities, including those already rethinking their attitude since Mrs Bottomley's announcement, have committed nearly pounds 40m to the project.

Without the major tranche of charity investment, experts say, Philip Harris House could become 'the most prestigious white elephant in the NHS'.