• Proposed changes to mental health and ophthalmology services in north central London get £100m boost from the centre
  • Long-planned moves heavily dependent on three trusts making land sale deadlines
  • Capital from land sales and philanthropy crucial to transformation
  • Moorfields chief executive likens process to “house purchase with one long chain”

A major programme involving land sales and services moving site has come a step closer to completion after the government announced £100m for the projects.

Moorfields Eye Hospital Foundation Trust has long planned to move from its Old Street site to a new base at St Pancras Hospital near Kings Cross.

But, in a process the trust’s chief executive likened to a “house purchase with one long chain”, doing so would first require Camden and Islington FT to move its 84 in-patient beds from there to land it will buy from Whittington Health Trust in the neighbouring borough of Islington.

Camden and Islington must complete its move to the Whittington site by 2021 so that Moorfields can open its new base by 2024. It has not yet bought the land from the Whittington but it is scheduled to do so in the current financial year.

If each move does not go as planned, Moorfields’ board papers have previously warned it risks running out of capital “leading to a failure to deliver the project”.

The Department of Health and Social Care last week announced it would give more than £100m in capital funding to help the long-planned shuffle of services in the north central London area. Camden and Islington has received £86m and Moorfields has received £18m.

This amount will cover Moorfields’ capital expenditure up to 2021, David Probert, Moorfields chief executive, told HSJ.

“The announcement [last week] was really helpful as it gave us and the market confidence that this scheme will happen,” he said. He added the money allocated so far is part of a total capital request of £110m, which has now been earmarked for the project by the centre. 

“The link with Camden and its move to the Islington site is critical,” Mr Probert said, although he added: “We have a three-way governance structure to make sure we can mitigate risks in each of the partners.

“We are managing it as one main project. It’s a bit like a house purchase with one long chain.”

Moorfields has estimated its move to St Pancras will cost around £400m, with the trust taking on approximately 70 per cent of that expenditure. The remaining 30 per cent will be provided by University College London, which will move its ophthalmology institute, adding to the expanding hub of research, teaching and care providers there.

Camden and Islington’s outpatient services will stay at St Pancras and become one of three community mental health hubs in north central London.

Selling Moorfields’ City Road buildings is an important source of revenue for the move, Mr Probert said. The trust needs to maximise the value of its current site to enable it to move to the new one, he explained.

The north central London sustainability and transformation partnership estimates there is space for around 1,000 housing units across the Moorfields and St Pancras sites, subject to planning permission and viability testing.

On top of the £110m central funds, the Moorfields Eye Charity and UCL will look to raise between £75m and £100m from philanthropists and donations. The charity and university have already raised nearly £25m of capital, Mr Probert said.