Published: 24/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 8

Visions of a world without the controversial Paddington Health Campus scheme are being explored for the first time, a letter leaked to HSJ reveals.

The Royal Brompton and Harefield trust board has been invited to come up with options in case the£1bn project collapses.

A letter from the board to North West London strategic health authority director of strategy Barbara Gill, dated March 14, suggests various development options.

It was prompted by a meeting between the board and SHA chief executive Dr Gareth Goodier and begins: 'At the end of Friday's meeting Gareth asked us to write to you with our vision of how things might look in a non-Paddington world.' The letter follows a decision earlier this month by landowners Paddington Development Corporation Limited to pull out of negotiations with the Department of Health over the project, which would see St Mary's, Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals merge.

Jean Brett, chair of the Heart of Harefield Campaign which is campaigning against the project, said the letter was evidence that the project was on the verge of collapse.

Mrs Brett said she warned the trust not to go ahead over a year ago: 'Had this advice been accepted, a great deal of public money would have been saved, and a great deal of embarrassment for NHS managers.' But St Mary's trust chief executive Julian Nettel is adamant the letter doesn't undermine the project. 'We need a responsible amount of contingency planning in case the scheme cannot proceed in the way we hoped.' An SHA spokesperson said: 'Any public body would be sensible to always be considering a plan B.' The DoH has been considering the outline business case for the project since December.