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Battle to save London Chest hospital next to Victoria Park from bulldozers

PUBLISHED: 12:26 03 June 2014

London Chest Hospital near Victoria Park

London Chest Hospital near Victoria Park

Barts NHS Trrust

Campaigners have called for a unique hospital building overlooking Victoria Park in London’s East End to be listed to save it from developers.

Bethnal Green’s London Chest Hospital could go on the market when its specialist cardiac services are switched to Bart’s in the City.

But Barts Health Trust which owns the site has not yet been given the green light by the NHS—whose national director this week called for a switch back to more local district hospital care.

Public consultations over the future of the four-acre triangle site in Appoach Road, 100 yards from the park, have led to a move by local historian Tom Ridge to stop its demolition, after claiming it has already been marked for housing by Tower Hamlets planners.

“That’s probably why my requests for local listing were ignored,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“The battle to save the hospital was tragically lost in the 1990s when Health Minister Virginia Bottomley signed its death warrant.

“Yet it still became a renowned ‘centre of excellence’ in 2006.”

The hospital has been “deliberately run down” so it can be closed and the site sold “to help pay for the massive Private Finance Initiative debts at the Royal London and Bart’s,” he claims.

The hospital was opened in 1855 by City businessmen to treat tuberculosis after the freehold was acquired from the Crown “on condition the land should always be used for treating chest diseases,” conservationists point out.

“Every brick was paid for by charitable donations,” Mr Ridge added. “It is a distinctive and much-loved Victorian building—and it was ours.”

His fight was strengthened this week by the new head of NHS England calling for smaller community hospitals to play a bigger role. Simon Stevens wants a shift away from centralised hospitals for more local care, especially for the elderly.

No deals to sell the London Chest have been agreed, Barts Health Trust revealed.

A Trust spokesman said: “The go-ahead to sell has not been given by the NHS. We plan to sell it off. Public consultation is being carried out first, after a business case was set out.”

The London Chest has a nationwide reputation for cardiac treatment. Patients taken straight there or within 24 are less likely to go on to have a full cardiac arrest, a study of 702 sufferers in east London found earlier this year.

Ambulance crews are trained to identify early signs of a heart attack and to take patients straight to a specialist centre like the London Chest. But from 2015, its cardiovascular services switch to St Bartholomew’s in the City, three miles away.

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