Staff are shocked by fate of flagship trust: Hospital's demise is greeted with disbelief, writes Rhys Williams

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The Independent Online
PHILIP HARRIS House at Guy's Hospital in south London stood opulent, empty and silent. It was none the less the most articulate tribute to the disbelief in the National Health Service's flagship trust yesterday.

The pounds 140m building, scheduled to open in September, was to be Britain's most sophisticated hospital wing. Instead, under plans announced by the Secretary of State for Health, Virginia Bottomley, and along with what little else will remain of the 273- year-old hospital, it is set to become a health centre and medical school.

That St Thomas's and Guy's would unite on a single site had been expected. As Mrs Bottomley spoke in the Commons, Mary Spinks, an asthma patient who helped raise pounds 1.75m for a specialist asthma and allergy unit in Philip Harris House, said: 'It's been a long slow death and today is the funeral.'

Staff were under strict orders from the trust's public relations office not to speak to the media. A clerk in accident and emergency would not give her name, but said: 'It's more beds that London needs, not less. It's shocking what they're doing.'

Stuck to a desk was a newspaper report suggesting that one Guy's building would be converted into luxury flats. Scribbled next to it were the words: 'Built for the poor, destroyed for the rich'.

Two student nurses walked home at the end of their shift. 'I feel shocked and upset - the fact that this is it, it's really going to happen,' one said. Her colleague added: 'It's very depressing wondering where the jobs will be when we qualify. They say Guy's will move to St Thomas's, but no one can see how we will fit in.'

Professor Michael Tynan, a paediatric cardiologist, expressed 'outrage and suspicion' at the decision to move all key services to St Thomas's. 'All the expert opinion was that if there was a one- site option, it should be Guy's. All the purchasers of health care, with the exception of Wandsworth, said it should be Guy's'

Guy's had a third more floorspace and 'infinitely better communications' (it adjoins London Bridge station and sits on 20 bus routes, compared with St Thomas's five). Mr Tynan said: 'If they make the decision going against all the evidence, one is tempted to think there is some other agenda.'