On the Critical List; the Hospital Is Modern, Efficient, Has No Waiting Lists and the Patients and Staff All Love It. So What Happens? the NHS Is about to Kill It Off
Marsh, Beezy, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: BEEZY MARSH
IN a health service beset by bed shortages, poor facilities and long waits for urgent treatment, the King Edward VII Hospital is a beacon of hope.
It has state-of-the-art equipment and no waiting lists - meaning that the NHS can send cancer sufferers and heart patients there for lifesaving treatment before it is too late.
Yet unless a buyer can be found for the 96-bed private hospital by today, it will be forced to close.
The NHS has pulled the plug on it by withdrawing almost pound sterling4million a year in funding, leaving more than 400 doctors, nurses and support staff at risk of redundancy.
The decision, which will mean delays in treatment for thousands of patients, appears to fly in the face of Health Secretary Alan Milburn's calls for greater co- operation between the NHS and the private sector.
Yet a Health Department spokesman dismissed the subject yesterday with the words: 'It is not for the NHS to use public money to prop up an ailing institution.' Cancer specialists last night warned that closure would be ' disastrous' for patients and stretch NHS services in Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey to breaking point.
For more than 50 years, the NHS has run a partnership system with the hospital, at Midhurst, West Sussex, which is run as a charity and counts the Queen as its president.
Despite catering for private patients including Bupa clients, and gaining pound sterling1million a year from local fundraising, it derives 35 per cent of its income from NHS sources.
Only health service financial constraints prevent more patients being treated there.
Nearby NHS hospitals have increasingly come to rely on the King Edward to 'fast track' seriouslyill patients for lifesaving care and to meet Government waitinglist targets.
Radiotherapy is carried out within a fortnight while heart bypass patients can avoid a delay of a year in their vital treatment.
Nevertheless, the NHS has pulled out of contracts to treat 3,500 inpatients and 11,000 outpatients a year, including 750 cancer sufferers.
It is believed that the cuts have been decided because health chiefs in Surrey and Sussex face budget deficits topping pound sterling60million this year.
The King Edward has gone into voluntary liquidation and receivers have been called in.
A 12-bed hospice run by Macmillan Cancer Relief which is housed in the hospital is also under threat, although the cancer charity is committed to trying to keep it running. …