London’s only HIV/AIDS hospital launches petition to stay open
PUBLISHED: 10:37 11 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:33 11 March 2020
A HIV/AIDS hospital in Shoreditch faces closure and has launched a petition in a bid to stay open so it can continue offering vital specialist services.
The hospital, which is the only HIV/AIDS hospital in London, costs NHS England about £5 million a year and relies on its funding to care for patient referrals. Mildmay hospital is a charity providing NHS services - not an NHS trust,
Fundraising manager Miklos Kiss says the cost of treating HIV patients 'are cheaper per bed' at Mildmay than within the NHS.
He told the Gazette: 'We've got two virtually empty hospital wards that could be easily filled - the demand is there - and it's leading to bed blocking in the NHS [and] our NHS colleagues are very frustrated because they would like to move their patients on to us and use the beds for other purposes. With corona virus as well this is becoming a bigger and bigger issue.'
Although the hospital says more referrals could be made, the CCG responsible says it is following clinical criteria.
Doctors, patients, MPs and campaigners are calling on the government to grant Mildmay enough funding for another year until new sources of income can be found.
The petition to save Mildmay hospital has reached more than 40,000 signatures since it launched last Friday and the campaign has seen support from the hospital's local Tower Hamlets MP Rushanara Ali as well as the Mayor of Hackney.
MP Rushanara Ali said the £5 million needed to keep Mildmay open is a 'tiny slice of the NHS budget it's an 'entirely false economy' to close the hospital and force patients into other parts of the NHS without the same medical specialism.
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Mildmay opened in the 1980s as an AIDS hospice and moved into treatment as antiretroviral therapies improved but Miklos said there are still vast numbers of people who have HIV and have not been diagnosed yet.
A late diagnosis can lead to neurological problems such as AIDS dementia or HANDS - HIV acquired neurological disease.
Mildmay hospital has specialised in HANDS for 35 years and is the only place in Europe that does.
The NHS clinical comissioning groups (CCGS) are working with Mildmay's staff to meet the needs of patients affected by the closure and state that demand for in-patient care has reduced over the last 20 years due to significant improvements in HIV treatments, medicines and services.
Sir Sam Everington said on behalf of the north east London CCGs: 'Patient referrals to Mildmay Mission Hospital are made in line with agreed clinical criteria and a person's individual care needs [and] all decisions about [Mildmay] hospital's future direction, including its closure, are the responsibility of its board.'
Meanwhile, the campaign has gained a lot of support from people like Norman Goldner who remembers the 'great work' done at the hospital at the peak of the HIV epidemic.
'Everyone that I knew who was treated at Mildmay sadly died. It was the early 1990s before modern meds became available. Because Mildmay Hospital did such great work at the peak of the HIV epidemic, and continue to do so, I will always support them which is why I was so disappointed to read that they might have to close,' he said.
the Mayor of Hackney Phillip Glanville has signed the petition and is joining campaigners in urging ministers to step in and save Mildmay Hospital.
He said: 'Mildmay Hospital was a vital part of our early response to AIDS and HIV. While HIV treatment may have changed, it remains an iconic, important part of east London's healthcare system, offering highly specialist HIV services which make a huge difference to the lives of those who use them.'
To sign the petition click here