Mildmay, London’s only HIV hospital, still faces closure during the Covid-19 epidemic

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26 MAR 2020 UPDATE 

Every hospital bed in the UK needs to be utilised during this unprecedented national emergency and Mildmay Hospital is doing everything it can to ease the burden on overstressed NHS hospitals.

We are rapidly gearing up to take on early step-down care for patients with acute HIV-related conditions. In addition, we will care for both HIV and homeless COVID-19 patients that are recovering and no longer infectious. Whilst we are still working out the details it’s clear that this will release beds in acute hospitals much more quickly.

NHS hospitals in London are seeing a ‘continuous tsunami’ of ill patients, says Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers. They are trying to deal with a lot more demand than they have ever had before with a lot fewer staff than before.

Hopson said that, while extra capacity was being brought in – including 4,000 beds at the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands – hospital chief executives are concerned that it will be used up “very, very quickly”.

Mildmay’s Chief Executive, Geoff Coleman, like many other NHS CEOs has been reassured by NHS England that the funding will be made available, enabling Mildmay to play its part during the COVID-19 crisis. Because the demand for beds is so urgent, Mildmay and other organisations involved are side-stepping normal procedures and admitting patients before their funding agreements are in place, aiming to resolve the funding down the line.

Mildmay, London’s only specialist HIV hospital, made famous by Diana, Princess of Wales, is still under threat of closure due to severe cuts to our NHS funding. As a charity providing NHS services and not an NHS Trust, when we run out of money, we will simply have to close.

Our #SaveMildmay campaign, which has received worldwide coverage, has over 60,000 signatories on its petition to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, asking for Mildmay’s unique services to be commissioned directly by NHS England like other specialist services already are, securing its future beyond the current crisis.

Yesterday, Mildmay admitted our first COVID-19 patient – a person who is homeless. It has always been our plan for 2020 to address the urgent need for people who are homeless to receive the highly focused, specialist care of the sort Mildmay provides. This relieves the pressure on NHS hospitals across the capital that, whilst able to treat the illnesses and injuries of homeless patients, cannot safely discharge them back into the communities from which they came. This specialist step-down care is not available elsewhere in London, and the COVID-19 epidemic increases this need enormously.

We are reversing the redundancies of as many of our staff as possible and recalling all those that are willing or able to return. At first, we will have to rely more than usual on 'Bank' and agency staff until we can get operations fully up and running.

The other challenge we and many others face is the sourcing of hospital scrubs and personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff to treat COVID-19 patients. PPE is in short supply because the demand across all health services in the UK is extraordinarily high. We are doing our best to get everything in place and ready to admit our first COVID-19 patients as soon as possible.

Thank you all so very much for your amazing support. Our campaign to avoid closure continues even as we admit new patients. It will continue until we are certain that our future is secured. So please keep sharing this petition and telling people about the #SaveMildmay campaign - you are our greatest asset!

Despite still facing closure, Mildmay is, at last, playing our part during the Covid-19 emergency.


Our original petition:

Patients living with HIV are set to lose their vital specialist services if the controversial closure of Mildmay Hospital in Shoreditch goes ahead.

The planned closure, blamed on NHS funding pressures, would close the doors on London’s only AIDS/HIV hospital, made famous by Diana, Princess of Wales when she visited in the 1980s and took the hand of a patient.

The cost – around £5m a year – represents a tiny slice of the NHS budget, and the cost of treating HIV patients in other parts of the NHS would be more expensive. Doctors, patients, MPs and campaigners are calling on the Government to grant Mildmay enough funding for another year, while new sources of income can be found.

Prince Harry, continuing his mother's passion, opened Mildmay’s brand new building in 2015 and it is still the only specialist hospital in Europe providing neurological rehabilitation for people with HIV.

Despite huge medical advances in the treatment of AIDS/HIV since the disease first came to the public’s attention in the 1980s, there are still a significant number of HIV patients in urgent need of the services Mildmay provides. NHS doctors say that this treatment will be required for years to come.

Even though Mildmay actually costs less per patient than acute NHS hospitals and its highly-skilled doctors, nurses and therapists are experts in specialist HIV care, desperately sick patients are not being transferred from London’s NHS hospitals and are blocking beds that are urgently needed by other patients.

Because Mildmay is a charity providing NHS services and not an NHS Trust, when it runs out of money, it will simply have to close. MPs and Government Ministers are considering whether Mildmay’s unique services can be commissioned directly by NHS England like other specialist services already are, but time is running out.

Geoff Coleman, Mildmay’s CEO said: ‘Frustrated doctors across London have already come out in support of Mildmay, saying that if the hospital closes, hundreds of NHS patients will suffer.

Overburdened NHS services just do not have the capacity to manage yet another group of patients with a chronic long-term condition such as HIV.’

Local MP Rushanara Ali said ‘‘Ministers must step in to save Mildmay Mission Hospital. Mildmay provides a vital specialist service for patients living with HIV. It would take £5m a year to keep Mildmay open, which is a tiny slice of the NHS budget. It is an entirely false economy to close this hospital and force patients into other parts of the NHS without the same medical specialism.

We are calling on the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to intervene and save Mildmay before it is too late.’

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