Public meeting over future of London Chest Hospital site in Bethnal Green

Campaigner Tom Ridge [inset] fighting to save London Chest Hospital

Campaigner Tom Ridge [inset] fighting to save London Chest Hospital - Credit: Tom Ridge

Campaigners are staging a public meeting this-evening on the future of the former London Chest Hospital which has closed after 150 years.

Now closed... London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green

Now closed... London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green - Credit: Tom Ridge

Activists from the Green Party are supporting local historian Tom Ridge who has been fighting for two years to stop it being turned into luxury housing that East End families won’t be able to afford.

The former hospital near east London’s Victoria Park, which was a leading centre for heart treatment, closed in April with the future of the four-acre site uncertain.

The Greens want Barts Health NHS Trust to make sure the site is used “for the public good” and are holding the meeting at Bethnal Green’s St James-the-Less Church, to get ideas from the public.

“We are asking the public to spell out their priorities,” party campaigner Chris Thorne said. “Tower Hamlets has a chronic housing shortage and lack of community spaces.”

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Tom Ridge launched a separate campaign to save the red-brick Victorian complex in Approach Road when its closure was first announced last year.

He applied for local listing, but claimed his request had been denied.

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He said at the time: “The battle to save the hospital was lost in the 1990s when the-then Health Minister signed its death warrant—yet the hospital still became a renowned ‘centre of excellence’ for cardiac treatment in 2006.

“Every brick was paid for by charitable donations for this distinctive and much-loved Victorian building—it was ours.”

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

It had a nationwide reputation with heart-attack patients who are taken there within 24 hours being less likely to go on to have a full cardiac arrest, a study of 700 patients in east London found.

Its medical innovations included an international clinical trial in 2013 for treatment for high blood pressure without having to use drugs every day.

All research and heart treatment has now switched to Bart’s Hospital in the City.

Tonight’s public meeting at St James-the-Less Church in St James’s Avenue, behind the hospital, starts at 7.30pm.

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