Coronavirus: Under-threat Mildmay HIV unit to treat patients

By Thomas Magill
BBC London News

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media captionLondon HIV hospital set to close

The UK's only hospital specialising in HIV care that was set to close has won a reprieve, staying open to treat patients with coronavirus.

Mildmay Mission Hospital in Bethnal Green, London, has accepted referrals from NHS hospitals across London of patients who have had Covid-19 but no longer need intensive care.

The 26-bed unit was made famous by numerous visits from Princess Diana.

A drop in NHS referrals led to hospital bosses deciding it may have to close.

But on the 25 March, Mildmay bosses were asked if the state-of-the-art facility could be used to treat people who have coronavirus, including patients who are homeless .

Three have already been treated and a further seven are due to arrive.

"Our team are extremely happy to be part of this fight against Covid-19," said Geoff Coleman, chief executive of the hospital.

"They are used to dealing with challenging clinical situations and this is their home ground," he added.

The hospital will continue to treat HIV patients in a separate part of the building.

"Every patient has their own room with en-suite facilities, enabling us to isolate patients," Mr Coleman said.

"Because our specialty is HIV, we operate in the same way as any infectious disease unit would and our isolation protocols are second to none."

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPrincess Diana visited the hospital 17 times where she met patients and staff

Bosses said the unit will be used to treat coronavirus patients for "at least the next four months" and all staff redundancy notices had been withdrawn.

With fewer people being diagnosed with HIV, the NHS said significant improvements in treatment and medication meant there was a reduced demand for the type of inpatient care the Mildmay Hospital offered.

Although bosses disagree, they hope these recent developments could help secure the long term future of the 153-year-old charity and hospital.

Mr Coleman said: "the hospital has the opportunity to demonstrate we can effectively treat homeless patients, thus opening up a new specialty".

"If we can prove that we can manage this new group of patients as well as our complex HIV patients then we should be able to secure a future for many years to come," he added.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPrince Harry also visited the hospital in 2015

The number of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK has dropped substantially in recent years.

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