Union predicts 3 hospitals in London to close

THREE London teaching hospitals will be earmarked by the Government for closure in autumn, paving the way for a 12 per cent cut in treatment and operations in the capital, union leaders predicted yesterday.

The axe is set to fall on St Thomas's, Charing Cross and the University College Hospital, cutting in-patient admissions by 100,000 and forcing up waiting lists in areas around London, according to the Confederation of Health Service Employees.

A year-long study of the capital's health services, commissioned by the Government and carried out by Sir Bernard Tomlinson, will report to ministers in autumn. It is expected to recommend that a number of hospital closures or mergers are needed to reflect population changes over the past 20 years.

Cohse argues that the notion of 'over-provision' of NHS beds and staff in the capital is a myth that has gained currency through support from academics such as the King's Fund, the independent health policy think-tank.

Geoff Martin, of the pressure group London Health Emergency, who carried out the research for Cohse, said: 'How can there be over-provision when there are 130,000 Londoners on waiting lists for operations; and when health spending per head of population is pounds 342 in London, compared to pounds 423 in Scotland?'

Although St Thomas's or Guy's hospitals were named by the South East Thames Regional Health Authority as prime candidates for closure, Cohse maintains the Government cannot permit the latter to shut as it is the 'flagship' hospital trust.

University College Hospital is London's most vulnerable, according to the survey.

Cohse says it is clear from the North West Thames health region's Tomlinson submission that Charing Cross's accident and emergency department will be closed next year. Without it, the hospital cannot be feasible.

The Department of Health declined to comment directly on Cohse's predictions. Tom Sackville, Under-Secretary of State for Health, said the union had missed a 'golden opportunity' to make a sensible contribution to the debate on London's health services.

The Department of Health should do more to exploit the EC single market and promote London as a centre of healthcare excellence, the Manufacturing, Science, Finance union said yesterday.

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