The chief executive of Birmingham's planned super-hospital has warned senior medical staff clinical services may have to be cut if the #559 million project is to get Government approval.
Mark Britnell was reacting to the surprise announcement that HM Treasury officials will be visiting the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust next week to examine the finances of the massive PFI scheme.
Mr Britnell plans to address an emergency meeting of 400 consultants and professors tomorrow, at which "options for savings" will be discussed.
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One possibility is some of the services planned for the new hospital may have to be placed elsewhere.
Such an outcome would defeat the object of a super-hospital, to improve patient care by bringing medical services together on one site, Mr Britnell said.
The Treasury visit appears similar to a scrutiny of St Bartholemew Hospital PFI in London, which resulted in the project being scaled back before approval was given.
Birmingham had to face the possibility it might have to "reduce the scope and scale of our ambitions", Mr Britnell said. A Government decision over the QE which, with 1,249 beds, will be Birmingham's first new hospital for 70 years was expected a year ago.
Preparation work on foundations at the Selly Oak site is underway, on the assumption of permission for the hospital.
The Department of Health, which insists it regards the project as viable, has accepted taxpayers will foot the bill for costs incurred by contractors if the Treasury refuses to give final approval.
Mr Britnell said Thursday's meeting would discuss the possibility of "shelling", in which some of the super-hospital buildings would be constructed as shells without internal infrastructure, to be added at a later date.
He made no secret of his anger at the intervention by the Treasury, particularly given the excellent financial record of the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust.
Mr Britnell said: "I am very frustrated. We have been in the black for 11 successive years, we are one of the country's top performing hospitals and we have been working on this scheme for eight years.
"It is a bit rich the Treasury coming in now and it will be extremely difficult to find savings at this stage.
"We are spending nearly #600 million of taxpayers' money so it is right the scheme should be looked at, but it is pretty late in the day.
"If the Treasury forces us to reduce the hospital size there will be less space. So we will be talking about which clinical specialities, potentially, may have to leave."
Reducing the size would cause further delay and turn out to be a false economy because building cost inflation would increase the cost of the project, he added.
Yardley Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who has been contacted by medical staff, intends to quiz Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt about the Treasury visit.
"The NHS is in a financial mess but this is unfair on the University Hospital Trust, one of the best run in the country," he said.
"They have been in balance for 11 successive years and it is wrong to make Birmingham suffer for the inadequacies of schemes in London.
"We should not be forced into having cuts in our local hospital services.
"But this sudden crisis meeting is a sign that a city hungry for better health services might at least get half a loaf out of this."