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HOK's huge Barts and Royal London Hospital plans on cusp of green light

HOK's vast PFI proposals for the new Barts and the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, seem to be on the verge of finally winning the green light from the government.

Rumours were growing yesterday that ministers are on the verge of giving the huge £1.1 billion project, which has been beset with controversy for more than two years, the go-ahead.

The project, which has already been heavily redesigned once, has been stuck in no-man's land for the last few months after the government decided to review all the major healthcare PFI schemes in the pipeline.

It was also subject to a massive redesign in 2004 after HOK's original proposals were slated by both CABE and Tower Hamlets' planners.

If the scheme does finally start on site it will represent a major achievement for the HOK designers, who have faced an almost never-ending series of hurdles.

However, Barts and Royal London officials have refused to confirm that there is any good news for the project. 'The origins of the story are unclear, but the trust has not yet received approval for the scheme from the Department of Health or any government department,' a spokesman said.

But doctors at the trust warned that the project must not be watered down as a way of winning government support.

Rakesh Uppal, a cardiothoracic surgeon with the trust, said: 'We remain hopeful that the Barts and Royal London redevelopment will go ahead with the full complement of 1,248 beds.

'If there is any reduction in bed numbers at either Royal London or Barts, it will put in jeopardy our ability to maintain our status as centres of excellence for cardiac and cancer services.

'Our patients in east London deserve nothing less than the bed provision planned. We await final details of the scheme with interest,' Uppal added.

by Ed Dorrell

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