The independent London newspaper

Top hospital is ‘literally’ falling down

MP warns any more structural problems will ‘put patients at risk’

26 April, 2019 — By Tom Foot

St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington

AN urgent refurbishment of crumbling St Mary’s has hit the buffers after a controversial NHS shake-up was scrapped.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck demanded urgent action to rebuild the Paddington hospital that she said was “quite literally falling down”.

Two wards shut because of patient safety and maternity services have been relocated because of a faulty lift, while beds have been lost due to flooding.

Ms Buck said there was £1.3billion backlog of maintenance works at five north-west London ­hospitals, including St Mary’s – by far the highest figure in the country.

In a House of Commons debate she added: “The Grafton ward closed due to significant structural concerns, with the loss of 32 beds in May 2018 and no possible structural solution. A ceiling collapsed in the Thistlethwaite ward. The Paterson Centre was flooded and closed for two weeks, with the loss of activity and 20 surgical beds in 2017.

“Floods, electrical issues and drainage problems are commonplace across the buildings and services at St Mary’s. The hospital simply cannot wait, yet everything is now frozen. We urgently need advice from the minister on how we will proceed.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced last month that the government was abandoning its “Shaping a healthier future” scheme that would have bulldozed Charing Cross Hospital and Ealing hospitals. The programme would, however, have significantly updated building and facilities at St Mary’s.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck

In January 2018 Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which manages St Mary’s, won planning permission from Westminster Council to begin developing a new eight-storey outpatient and ambulatory service building on the east side of the Paddington site – at the Salton House, the Dumbell, and Victoria and Albert buildings. Ophthalmology services were also due to be moved out of the Western Eye Hospital into a modern, flexible and welcoming facility.

The project, however, has not been approved financially by NHS Improvement – the body that monitors foundation trust hospitals – and with the collapse of the scheme there is no guarantee it will go ahead.

Ms Buck told the Commons: “It is now 14 years since the Paddington health campus proposal finally collapsed, which was the first vision of the redevelopment of St Mary’s Hospital. Here we are in 2019, with the collapse of ‘shaping a healthier future’, and we are still frozen in terms of a major redevelopment for St Mary’s.” She said “the failure to gain funding” was a “key risk” because conditions “have deteriorated so much”.

She added: “We urgently need advice from the minister on how we will proceed. Should there be a further structural problem of the kind that we have already seen, it would not only be an imminent risk to patients, but would take out chunks of capacity from an already highly-stretched hospital, which will have repercussions across the whole of north west London. We simply cannot go on like this.”

Ms Buck said the hospital was “very dear to my heart”, adding: “It saved my life once, and I gave birth there, and it is held in very high regard among my constituents. Quite rightly, it has a terrific reputation for clinical care; we should never miss an opportunity to record our admiration for the staff, who deliver health care so superbly to the public.”

Seema Kennedy, junior health and social care minister, responded: “The NHS in north-west London is now in agreement to move on from the ‘shaping a healthier future’ programme.

“In January the government announced that there will be an extra £20billion a year for the NHS by 2024. As part of that, every area in the country will need to develop its own local plan for the next five years for how to spend the extra money.

“The north-west London sustainability and transformation partnership, working with clinicians and the public, will develop a new long-term, five-year plan for how best to spend that money, working together as a single health system.”

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