Letters

Your coverage of plans to create a new specialist centre in the Paddington Basin for heart and lung disease placed a misleading emphasis on closure (news, pages 8-9, 24 February).

We aim to establish a new network of specialist centres to end the damaging fragmentation of care that exists in west London, and to enhance the quality of services while strengthening the global standing of research carried out by Imperial College and its NHS partners.

If agreed, the plans for heart and lung services will bring together world-leading teams from Harefield and Royal Brompton hospitals in state-of-the-art facilities, to create an international centre uniquely placed to lead advances in medical knowledge and practice. The new centre will treat nearly 35,000 patients a year, more than the combined total treated at both hospitals now.

Hillingdon community health council's chief officer is disingenuous in implying that NHS managers have downplayed the possibility of major reorganisation.

These plans flow directly from Professor Sir Leslie Turnberg's recommendation for a more rational distribution of specialist services in west London.

The possibility of alternative service configurations - including the potential transfer of Harefield's services - has been in the public domain for some time.

We recognise that long-term improvements must not be achieved at the cost of short-term detriment to services while any changes take effect. To this end, we will be investing in essential developments.

Commitments have already been made to support high-priority schemes at both Harefield and Royal Brompton to avoid destabilising these internationally reputed centres of excellence.

Our aim is to create a pattern of care in west London to preserve this reputation and ensure that future generations of NHS patients get the best access to specialist medical care.

Andrew Woodhead Project director West London Partnership Forum