By Julia Gregory Local Democracy Reporter
The boss of a world-beating specialist heart and lung health trust has pledged it will stay in Chelsea for “decades”.
Bob Bell, who is the chief executive of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospital NHS Trust, was responding to Kensington and Chelsea council’s concerns that its merger with a South London trust could happen faster than expected “under cover of Covid”.
He said there are no plans for the trust to lose its name when it merges with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital some time next year.
The trust and NHS England also recently met the council.
Trust governor Tim Aherne raised the issue at Kensington and Chelsea’s full council meeting earlier in July.
He told the council governors were told the Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust “will be dissolved on January 2, 2021” with a new trust formed. He also told the council the Brompton name “will disappear and within 10 years all services will be transferred to the St Thomas’s site”.
Both those suggestions were refuted by Mr Bell at the board meeting.
The merger plans came about after NHS England said it was not happy that cardiac staff had to travel half a mile away from its main campus in Sydney Street to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to care for children with serious heart complaints.
However, the location meant the hospital failed to meet NHS England’s updated national guidelines for paediatric heart surgery, which now require hospitals’ children’s services to be located together on a single site.
The trust was forced to come up with an alternative plan in 2017.
NHS England declined to support the trust’s initial plan to save the services on its current campus, involving the creation of a new children’s cardiac and respiratory facility, including paediatric intensive care, at Chelsea and Westminster.
The trust and King’s Health Partners submitted a second joint proposal to leave Chelsea and Westminster, and collaborate to consolidate all heart and lung services for adults and children on the site of St Thomas’ Hospital, in Westminster Bridge Road.
A merger between the trust and St Thomas’ and Guy’s in London Bridge is likely to go ahead next year.
However Kensington and Chelsea Council is lobbying health secretary Matt Hancock to prevent any eventual move from Chelsea, which it fears could be on the cards, with the land worth millions if developed for housing. It has also asked Kensington MP Felicity Buchan and Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands to get involved and launched an online petition.
Mr Bell said: “Things are progressing in a constructive way between the two organisations. We have submitted to NHS Improvement a draft strategic business plan and now we are awaiting their commentary. We have begun the process of formulating a full business case which we hope to have ready in September.”
It will be reviewed by the board and governors before it is sent to NHS Improvement.
“If things proceed as we expect we will still be planning for some kind of corporate merger sometime in the first quarter of 2021.”
He rejected what he called “disturbing noise – completely baseless media coming out of Kensington and Chelsea or even I understand quotations by certain officials, elected officials from the borough”.
He stressed “the Brompton Hospital is not closing on January 2.
“The Brompton will remain open for the better part of several years to come, almost generational decades.”
He hit out at “false rumouring, it does nothing but create grief and trouble, first to patients and secondly to staff and to communities.”
And he told the board meeting: “The name Royal Brompton will remain. The name Royal Brompton will not disappear. The fact that we’ve enacted a corporate merger with Guy’s and St Thomas’ in fact is enshrined in the agreement that the Royal Brompton and Harefield will be preserved as identify names of the facilities going forward.
And he added: “There will be no staff relocation and no staff movement as well as no service relocation for several years to come. I can say that quite categorically, and we will not undertake any service realignments or reconfigurations until there has been appropriate essential consultation processes that have taken place.”
He said this was not anticipated “for the minimum of three to four years”.
He added: “Overall I think the people who are promoting these ideas are not doing anybody any service and are not really helping.
“I guess that’s politics and nasty politics at that.”
Kensington and Chelsea Council has been approached for comment.
To see the petition, click here.
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