UPDATE: Monday 23 March 2020: Due to the COVID-19 emergency measures, we will not be delivering our petition to Downing Street today.The petition will keep running until the funding for the hospital is secure.
Quite a lengthy post today but there is a lot to update you on, and you can read some useful FAQs at the end.
Our petition now stands at over 51,000 signatures and still rising. In just over a week, we hope to deliver our petition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street to show beyond doubt, the overwhelming support of not only the general public but former patients and staff for Mildmay. We are also supported by clinicians from right across the UK who need us to stay open so they can continue to refer their patients. They understand the importance of our services for people with HIV. So please keep sharing this petition and telling people about the #SaveMildmay campaign – you are our greatest asset!
There has been lots of activity in the media this week around the #SaveMildmay Campaign. We have had lots of coverage both in print and online, with our story even taken up by Reuters, which means #SaveMildmay has gone global, with reports coming in from as far away as Canada and Taiwan.
BBC London News came to Mildmay to film our story, but because the harrowing news of the Covid-19 epidemic, quite rightly, continues to dominate the airwaves, this has not been broadcast yet. We hope the BBC will find a slot for us this week, but in the meantime, they have put a taster clip of their report online.
On Tuesday in the House of Commons, Bethnal Green and Bow MP, Rushanara Ali, who is championing our cause, asked the Health Minister Edward Argar MP what the government is doing about Mildmay.
Although we were disappointed by his response, we understand that behind the scenes, discussions are ongoing, so we remain optimistic. As Rushanara says,
“At a time when the NHS is under immense pressure and hospital beds are needed to cope with the Coronavirus outbreak, it ‘beggars belief’ that the Government has not taken any action to save Mildmay“.
Indeed, one of our state-of-the-art wards with en-suite patient rooms currently lies completely empty and unused.
We will continue to apply pressure this coming week, lobbying health ministers and NHS England. The government is pledging to spend billions on tackling the Covid-19 epidemic and on bailing out airlines and businesses. They will be requisitioning private hospital beds and clearing infectious disease wards in hospitals to make way for coronavirus patients. We hope that the government and NHS will make use of our specialist facilities.
HIV patients stuck in NHS hospitals are at great risk of harm from Covid-19. It makes sense to transfer them to our hospital where we can take appropriate measures to minimise the risk of infection
On average, our specialist HIV hospital costs £540 a week less than keeping that patient in a generic infectious disease ward in an NHS Hospital.
Because we are a small Specialist Unit that only treats people with complex, severe health complications caused by HIV, we are able to manage our costs and keep them below those of the NHS. If we received central NHS funding, we would save the NHS over £2m a year.
The NHS saves about £170m a year by using cheaper, generic antiretroviral drugs. We need only £5 million a year to run our hospital – a minuscule fraction of the overall NHS budget, so they can easily afford to keep us open.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why is it so important to #SaveMildmay?
Mildmay is a charity rather than an NHS or private hospital. It is classified as providing specialist services to the NHS; we are the only UK hospital that provides specialist care for people suffering from HIV-related illnesses and we maintain a pool of expertise and knowledge that is unsurpassed in Europe.
Senior clinicians and HIV support services across London and the UK confirm that there is a high demand for Mildmay’s services amongst people living with HIV. Nearly half of people newly diagnosed in 2018 (43%) were diagnosed late – meaning that their immune system had already been damaged, and they are 10 times more likely to die in the 12 months after diagnosis.
There is also a continuing need for the HIV population as they grow older, both because of the damage the virus has done to their bodies over time or, in some cases, the harmful effect of some of the early HIV medications.
Why is Mildmay under threat of imminent closure?
NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are currently the source of funding for Mildmay’s patients, but they themselves are cash-strapped and have been unable to agree on a funding arrangement for Mildmay, meaning that referrals by specialist HIV clinicians are being obstructed. People are instead referred to inappropriate community services and this is resulting in increased pressures elsewhere in the system or bed-blocking, which is ultimately more costly.
It is fair to say that it has not been easy for CCGs either, having to deal with Austerity for ten years.
When did you first find out about the possible closure?
We have been battling with the CCGs for nearly two years, but it became a reality in October last year when we first tried to meet with the Health Minister. Since then it has been a drawn-out process of meetings, bringing us inexorably closer to the closure deadline of 31 March 2020. NHS England has never acknowledged our closure because it can stand apart from the decisions of the CCGs. It is effectively closure by proxy.
How did you find out?
By watching our patient numbers and our finances dwindle.
Why has the NHS said it will no longer fund the hospital?
It hasn’t said so directly. CCGs have simply blocked patient referrals to Mildmay, effectively cutting off the charity’s primary source of funding.
What do you believe will happen to prospective patients?
People will spend longer in acute Hospital beds before being discharged into the care of community services that are already operating beyond capacity – without any recourse to specialist services that focus on their specific needs, as only Mildmay does.
People with advanced HIV-related conditions won’t get our specialist care and a chance to recover enough to lead a relatively normal life in the community. They will be at greater risk of prolonged and irreversible mental and physical disability, and even death.
What will happen to the facilities?
The charity’s new hospital, only opened in 2015, will be sitting empty and so we will do our utmost to try and find a use for it.
Mildmay has been caring for the people of London for over 153 years. It first opened as a charitable Christian mission in response to the cholera epidemic that devastated East London in the 1860s. Mildmay Hospital formally opened in 1892. In 1947, it became part of the NHS, which eventually closed it down as uneconomical in the early 1980s. The local community and the charity’s trustees successfully fought to reopen it in the mid-80s as an independent charitable hospital once again, and since then, Mildmay has led the field in HIV and AIDS rehabilitation and care.