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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Hospital closes after four years
Ravenscourt Park Hospital
The hospital has cut waiting times dramatically
A flagship NHS hospital has been forced to close after just four years because of a lack of demand.

Ravenscourt Park Hospital in west London was a private hospital that was leased to the NHS in 2002 in a drive to cut waiting times.

The hospital helped cut waiting times by up to two thirds but was often only half full and operated at a 12m loss.

Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust said the decision to move services was made to save public money.

Specialist centre

Services are to be transferred to Charing Cross Hospital, just over a mile away, along with most of the 200 staff.

BBC London political editor Tim Donovan said the hospital needed to treat 12,000 patients a year to break even, but has been treating 5,000 - creating a loss which could not be justified.

The NHS Trust said demand had dried up because other hospitals have improved their own services to patients.

If it continues to lose money then the rest of the NHS has to pay for it
Derek Smith
Hammersmith Hospitals Trust

"If we don't move the service and cover the costs then the problem with it will be is that the hospital will lose money," says Derek Smith, chief executive of Hammersmith Hospital's Trust.

"If it continues to lose money then the rest of the NHS has to pay for it."

The trust said it was a tough decision, taken after "detailed financial and predicted patient analysis".

But John Lister, of campaign group London Health Emergency, said the Ravenscourt Park had fallen victim to government policy.

He said while private treatment centres were centrally funded, hospitals which send patients to NHS centres have to pay from their own budgets.

'Completely contradictory'

And a new "payment by results" system means hospitals are paid according to the number of patients they treat, meaning they are less likely to transfer them elsewhere.

Mr Lister told BBC News: "The government has set up completely contradictory lines of policy.

"These units are extremely popular with patients but their [viability] has been made almost impossible by government policy."

There are 10 years left on the lease which means taxpayers will have to pay 40m for an empty building unless some other medical use - a condition of the covenant - can be found for the building.

The trust has said that where possible, staff will be transferred to the expanded orthopaedic services at Charing Cross - or offered other jobs in local hospitals.

NHS goes private to cut queues
06 Mar 02 |  England

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