London HIV/Aids Hospital threatened with closure

April 9, 2020

The Mildmay, London’s only dedicated HIV hospital, faces closure with critics of the decision stating that NHS England is misunderstanding the ongoing needs of people living with HIV.

Steve Wardlaw, prominent LGBTQ+ activist and chairman of Emerald Life, an insurance broker which sources policies for people living with previously uninsurable conditions such as HIV, said: “We should stop referring to the famous visit made by Princess Diana, as it makes the Mildmay sound like a museum relic. It shouldn’t be saved because of its historic value, but because it still provides much-needed services for those living with HIV who do develop complications.”

Over the past 30 years, The Mildmay has made great strides in reducing mortality and new infection rates for people living with HIV, particularly within the gay and bisexual male community. The HIV-focused facility was a core part of service provision at the height of the Aids crisis but, as the hospital points out, despite huge improvements in HIV treatment and survival, the needs for HIV services have not gone away. They have
simply evolved and in a way are more complex than they were when HIV infection usually meant premature death. Senior NHS doctors say that this type treatment will be required for many years to come.

The Mildmay, which is a charity providing NHS services and not an NHS Trust, says: “MPs and government ministers are considering whether Mildmay’s services can be commissioned directly by NHS England like other specialist services already are, but time is running out fast.” If the facility, which costs around £5 million a year to run, does run out of money, it will have to close.

The hospital adds: “Even though Mildmay costs less per patient than acute NHS hospitals, and our highly-skilled doctors, nurses and therapists are experts in specialist HIV care, desperately sick patients are not being transferred from London’s main NHS hospitals and are blocking beds that are urgently needed for other patients.”

Doctors, patients, MPs and campaigners are calling on the government to grant Mildmay enough funding for at least another year, while new sources of income can be found.

Wardlaw is concerned that, among the headline-grabbing investment statements, closures such as this are unnoticed budget cuts. “The Mildmay provides very specialised neurological services for people living with HIV, and it seems that nowhere in these closure plans is an alternative being discussed. If that is the case, we aren’t losing a treasured memento, we are losing a vital service for some of the most marginalised in society. There is a serious risk that a populist government may take this opportunity to cut services that are seen as niche, as a sleight of hand move.”

In late 2016, The Sussex Beacon faced imminent closure in similar circumstances. In Brighton & Hove there was a local outcry, with thousands signing an online petition and its plight discussed in parliament thanks to all three local MPs. Local businesses and other HIV charities, including Terence Higgins Trust (THT), stepped in with support and by the end of the following year the Beacon’s finances were once again secured.

The Department of Health has established the HIV Commission, together with THT and the National AIDS Trust, to eliminate new HIV infections by 2030. It remains to be seen if the work taking place at The Mildmay will be part of that journey.

Over 60,000 people have already signed the petition, supporters are invited to sign the petition or learn more on the hospital’s website: